Behind the cases of acute childhood hepatitis of unknown origin, the trail of adenoviruses

It’s an intriguing series of acute hepatitis. It has been raging for a few months in young children, in certain European countries and in the United States. Intriguing, because the origin of these severe hepatitis has still not been elucidated, despite ongoing investigations.

In the United Kingdom, the country by far the most affected, there are now 108 cases which have been confirmed by the medical authorities, Thursday April 21: 79 in England, 14 in Scotland, and 15 between Wales and Northern Ireland. North. The first cases were detected at the end of March (except for one case identified in January). Most hospitalized children are between 1 and 5 years old. Eight of them had to undergo a liver transplant. “Transplants at these ages are extremely rare, so we are very concerned”Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told the BBC.

Other isolated cases have been identified in the United States, in equally young children (nine cases in Alabama and two in North Carolina, as of April 21), as well as in Spain and Ireland, in particular. In France, two young children, diagnosed at the Femme-Mère-Enfant hospital in Lyon, were suspected of belonging to this series. But since then, these two cases “have been resolved, one a fortnight ago, the other a month agosaid the Hospices Civils de Lyon on Tuesday. One of the forms of hepatitis (affecting a 3.5-year-old boy) is of viral origin, the other (on a 7-year-old girl) is thought to be of metabolic-genetic origin, with examinations still being analyzed “. These two cases have no “no obvious links with the cases of hepatitis identified in the United Kingdom”believe these hospitals.

The alert was issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on April 15. “The priority is to determine the etiology of these cases in order to guide future clinical and public health actions”noted the UN organization.

Very unusual cases

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, that is to say responses of the immune system to an infection or damage to this organ. Their causes can be sometimes infectious, sometimes toxic (drugs, for example, or, for chronic hepatitis, an excessively fatty and sweet diet or a chronic excess of alcohol). In children, acute hepatitis often (but not always) results in jaundice, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, as well as dark urine and gray stools. And by fever, if its origin is infectious.

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