Mysterious hepatitis in children: the Covid track increasingly favored by researchers

Of unknown origin, this pediatric disease is spreading around the world and has already infected at least 450 children

It appeared in April in the UK and has continued to infect children ever since. It was even fatal for a dozen of them.

But above all it remains of unknown origin.

Scientists trying to find its origin, despite the lack of hindsight, have still made some progress in a few weeks.

A viral origin

Most patients had gastrointestinal symptoms before this progressed to jaundice to acute liver failure. No common environmental exposures were found and an infectious agent remains the most plausible cause.

This severe acute hepatitis in children would be of viral origin, but would not concern the known hepatitis viruses, neither A, nor B, nor C… until E.

The viral trail is practically certain, but it still needs to be identified.

It would be a type 41 adenovirus. In any case, in most of the small patients, this adenovirus was detected.

But researchers aren’t sure because this virus doesn’t normally cause liver damage in healthy underage patients, which is the case with this hepatitis.

Read also – Hepatitis of unknown origin in children: cases in France, what are the symptoms to watch out for?

Research that focuses on Covid

Another hypothesis is currently being studied: the Covid. Indeed, most patients with this hepatitis tested positive for Covid at the time of the illness or some time before.

And according to English and American researchers who published an article on May 14 in The Lancet, this is a track to study without rejecting the track of the adenovirus.

For them, this severe acute hepatitis could be the consequence of contamination by an adenovirus, but which can develop after a Covid infection.

Because “the viral persistence of Covid in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to the repeated release of viral proteins through the intestinal epithelium, leading to immune activation. This superantigen-mediated activation of immune cells has been proposed as a causative mechanism of the syndrome. multisystem inflammatory disease in children”, as reported by Petter Brodin and Moshe Arditi, the authors of the publication.

Which means that the possibility of Covid persisting in children should be explored further and when they are subsequently infected with the adenovirus, they have a more fragile ground which leads to this hepatitis.

In mice, the mechanism of this “double” infection promotes hepatitis and leads to the death of the animal.

The authors of the publication insist: “We suggest that children with acute hepatitis be studied for the persistence of Covid in the stool in particular because this could provide evidence for a mechanism linked to Covid in a host sensitized to adenovirus. type 41.”

If this were the case, appropriate treatment could be administered to the children and thus save their lives.

In figures: a hundred cases listed in Europe

As specified by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the number of cases listed on May 10, amounted to more than a hundred:

35 in Italy, 22 in Spain, 9 in Sweden, 8 in Portugal, 6 in the Netherlands, 6 in Denmark, around 5 in Ireland, 4 in Norway, 3 in Belgium, 2 in France, 2 in Cyprus, 2 in Austria and one in Poland.

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