British studies claim to have identified the cause of hepatitis

British studies claim to have identified the cause of hepatitis

Scientists in Britain say they have identified the likely cause of a recent outbreak of a mysterious liver disease affecting young children around the world, reports CNBC.

In new research, they suggest that lack of exposure to two common viruses during the Covid-19 pandemic could have increased the likelihood that some children will become seriously ill with acute hepatitis.

In the published studies, two research teams from University College London and the University of Glasgow said that isolation restrictions may have caused some infants to miss out on early immunity to both adenovirus and the new adeno-associated virus 2 ( AAV2).

Crucially, however, both teams said they found no evidence of a direct link between the rise in hepatitis cases and infection with SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19.

Specifically, more than 1,000 children in 35 countries have developed an unidentified type of severe acute hepatitis – or liver inflammation – since the first case was reported in January.

So the majority of cases were in children five years old or younger, although diagnoses were detected in children up to 16 years old.

In the context of the research, Adenovirus, which usually causes a mild cold or flu-like illness, was previously thought to be partly responsible for the mysterious outbreak, as it was the most common virus found in samples from affected children.

However, the new research indicated that adeno-associated virus 2, which normally causes no disease and cannot replicate without a “helper” virus such as adenovirus or herpesvirus, was present in 96% of cases of unknown hepatitis examined in both studies.

A mystery solved?

From a medical point of view, researchers now say that infection with the two viruses – AAV2 and an adenovirus, or less commonly the herpesvirus HHV6 – may provide the best explanation for the recent outbreak.

In his opinion, “Although we still have some unanswered questions about what exactly led to this increase in acute hepatitis, we hope that these results can reassure parents worried about Covid-19, as none of the teams found any direct link to infection with SARS-CoV-2,” Professor Judith Breuer, from the UCL GOS Institute for Child Health, said in the report.

In addition, the findings add to the theories of some health experts that the Covid restrictions have reduced the population’s immunity to a number of common diseases.

The researchers added that there is no link to the coronavirus vaccines.

The two studies were conducted independently and simultaneously, using samples from the UK.

Furthermore, Dr Sofia Morfopoulou, professor at UCL’s GOS Institute of Child Health, said further research is now needed to compare their findings with cases of acute hepatitis identified in other countries.

“International collaborations are now needed to investigate and elucidate the role of AAV2 and viral co-infection in unexplained pediatric hepatitis in patients from different countries,” she said.