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Explainer: Scientists investigate hepatitis outbreaks in children in Europe and the United States

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The World Health Organization logo is painted on December 20, 2021 at the entrance to the WHO Building in Geneva, Switzerland. REUTERS / Denis Balibouse

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London, April 26 (Reuters)-Hepatitis authorities around the world are investigating a mysterious increase in severe cases of hepatitis (liver inflammation) in infants.

The following is a summary of what is known about the outbreak.

what’s happened?

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More than 190 cases have been identified, the majority of which have reported 111 cases since January in the United Kingdom.

Other countries, including the United States, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, also report low cases. read more

Mild childhood hepatitis is not unheard of, but the children were so ill that they were first warned in Scotland on April 6. Some even needed a liver transplant and one child died. read more

Another concern was that cases were not associated with typical viruses associated with normal conditions such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.

“This is still a very small number of cases, but they are children, which is their main concern and the other is severe,” said Maria, a professor of hepatology in Barcelona and chair of the European Research Association.・ Buty said. The Liver Public Health Commission, which is closely tracking the outbreak with the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

The main theory is probably viral infection by adenovirus. This is a common family of viruses that can cause a common cold, among other conditions.

Type 41, a type of adenovirus, has been reported to cause acute gastroenteritis and hepatitis in immunocompromised children, but never in healthy children.

Jim McMenamin, director of Public Health Scotland, may have mutated the adenovirus involved to cause a more serious illness, or “in parallel” with another virus, including SARS-CoV-2. He said work was underway to confirm that it was sexual. , A virus that causes COVID-19.

Of the affected children in the UK, 75% tested positive for adenovirus.

Scientists say the geographic spread of the case suggests that the infection is a more likely explanation, although new pathogens may be involved or exposed to toxins. say.

Links to the COVID-19 vaccine were excluded because the UK children, most of whom were found, were not vaccinated.

Other scientists have said it may explain the weakened immunity as a result of a decrease in social mixing during the pandemic.

“This may be an overreaction to a stimulus to the immune system that is unfamiliar with such insults … that’s a good theory,” said Hepatologist and Professor of Translation Medicine at Imperial College London. Stated.

Others have warned that adenovirus infections are widespread at this time of the year and may be a coincidence.

Public health alerts in the United States and Europe require doctors to monitor their condition and test their children for adenovirus if hepatitis is suspected.

Symptoms include dark urine, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, light-colored stools, and joint pain.

There is no specific cure for hepatitis, but medicines can help reduce inflammation and other symptoms.

Parents are told to be aware of their symptoms and contact a medical professional if they are worried.

To prevent further spread, the UK Health and Security Agency has promoted “sufficient respiratory hygiene” such as hand washing and catching coughs and sneezes in tissues.

Experts said the increase in the number of cases was relatively slow, but warned that more cases would be expected.

“If you pay attention to things, you’ll see more of it,” Buty said.

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Report by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Glover in London.Edited by Josephine Mason and Robert Barcel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters trusts the principles.

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