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HEALTH – Despite ongoing scientific investigations, the mystery remains. The growing concern around a form of acute hepatitis affecting children in several countries is not diminishing.
As of April 21, the WHO counted no less than 169 cases distributed in 11 European countries and the United States. This form of hepatitis, of still unknown origin, affects children aged from one month to 16 years. While the majority of cases have been reported in the UK (114), two cases have been identified in France.
For the time being, the favored scientific track is that of adenoviruses. There are more than 50 immunologically distinct types of adenoviruses, usually responsible for infections of the lungs and respiratory tract, which can cause colds and in some cases pneumonia.
However, an adenovirus infection “does not fully explain the severity of the clinical picture”, indicates the WHO, leaving the door open to at least one other underlying origin. In its latest report on the progress of this epidemic, the WHO puts forward three hypotheses to try to explain the emergence of this new form of hepatitis.
New adenovirus and consequences of Covid-19
According to the World Health Organization, “factors such as increased susceptibility in young children following a lower circulating level of adenovirus during the Covid-19 pandemic, the potential emergence of a new adenovirus, as well as SARS-CoV-2 co-infection, need further investigation.”
In summary, a still unknown adenovirus could be the cause of this epidemic. This respiratory virus causes vomiting, cold symptoms or conjunctivitis, but rarely hepatitis. It could therefore be a new variant of adenovirus, as explained by Scottish researchers in the journal Science: “A variant with a distinct clinical syndrome or a commonly circulating variant that affects young children more severely”.
The passage of Covid-19 could also have aggravated the immune system of children, favoring the appearance of this hepatitis. After confinement, children would have been more weakened by adenoviruses because they were much less exposed during this unprecedented period.
Moreover, the track of a co-infection has not been ruled out, as shown by the figures for tests carried out on children affected by this new form of hepatitis. Indeed, among the 169 children, 74 were positive for the adenovirus. Covid-19 was detected in 20 of those tested. “In addition, 19 were detected with co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus,” WHO points out in this report.
However, the track of side effects due to vaccines against Covid-19 is not supported to date. “The vast majority of affected children have not received the COVID-19 vaccine,” says the UN agency.
“It is very likely that more cases will be detected before the cause can be confirmed and more specific control and prevention measures can be implemented”, also notes the WHO, which indicates that it is working closely with the United Kingdom. , the main focus of this epidemic.
For the specialized institution, “the priority is to determine the cause of these cases in order to further refine control and prevention actions. Common preventive measures against adenovirus and other common infections involve regular hand washing and respiratory hygiene”.
WHO also recommends that tests of blood, serum, urine, stool and respiratory samples, as well as liver biopsy samples (when available) be performed to refine ongoing investigations.
However, no travel and trade restrictions with the UK or other countries where cases have been identified appear necessary at this time. In addition to the 114 cases identified in children in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there are so far 13 cases in Spain, 12 in Israel, 9 in the United States, 6 in Denmark, less than 5 in Ireland, 4 in the Netherlands and Italy, 2 in France and Norway and one case in Romania and Belgium.
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