London, Apr 26 ( Associated Press) Britain’s health authorities are looking into the causes of an increase in acute hepatitis or liver inflammation in children, saying there is growing evidence that it is linked to a common virus.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency has reported 111 cases of unexplained hepatitis in children under the age of 10 since January. Ten out of ten children needed a liver transplant. The UN health agency said it had so far received “reports of at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin, and one death reported.
Although it is not clear what causes the diseases, a prime suspect is adenovirus, which was found in 75 per cent of confirmed cases tested, the UK agency said in a statement on Monday.
Adenoviruses, a common group of viruses, are now spreading among children at higher-than-average levels after falling to abnormally low levels during the pandemic.
A way to investigate whether the outbreak could be linked to a rise in common viral infections after COVID-19 restrictions were phased out. Children who were not exposed to the adenovirus in the past two years may be more affected when exposed to the virus now.
“The information gathered through our investigation increasingly suggests that this increase in sudden-onset hepatitis in children is associated with adenovirus infection,” said Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA. “However, we are thoroughly investigating other possible causes.” Chand presented the British data on Monday during an emergency session of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon.
The common viruses that cause infectious liver inflammation – hepatitis A to E – were not detected in any of the 111 cases being investigated in the UK. The victims faced symptoms like jaundice, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
The liver processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infection. Hepatitis can be life-threatening if left untreated.
There are dozens of adenoviruses, many of which are associated with cold-like symptoms, fever, sore throat and pink eye.
US officials said earlier this month they were investigating a cluster of otherwise unexplained hepatitis cases diagnosed in nine Alabama children who also tested positive for adenovirus. Officials there are searching for a link to a particular variant – adenovirus 41 – that is commonly associated with inflammation of the gut.
UK public health officials denied any link to the COVID-19 vaccines, saying none of the affected children had been vaccinated. ( Associated Press) RDK