The mystery of the 70 acute hepatitis affecting children in the UK –

from Cristina Marrone

Three cases were also reported in Spain. Ecdc warning: “Origin unknown”. Some little ones needed a liver transplant. An invitation to physicians to investigate suspicious symptoms

British doctors are examining one mysterious outbreak of acute hepatitis which affect very young children, most of them between two and five years of age. Over the past eight weeks, over 60 cases of hepatitis of unknown origin have been recorded in England and 11 in Scotland. Three other cases have been reported in Spain. For some of the children it was even necessary to undergo a liver transplant, and in many the inflammation caused severe organ failure. Children will have to take medication for life. None of them traveled abroad.

The warning from the European Center for Disease Control

The European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) on Wednesday launched a warning because it is a a large number of small patientstaking into account that the event is very rare among children. The warning, which so far does not concern Italy, should not be underestimated. “The situation is worrying despite a possible and not yet proven link with Covid-19. We can not rule out that cases will also occur in Italy from one day to the next,” he said. Antonio GasbarriniProfessor of Internal Medicine at the Catholic University and Director of the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences at Irccs Gemelli in Rome interviewed by Ansa.


Hepatitis is often associated with specific pathogenslike the hepatitis C virus, but it can be triggered by many other factors. In the past, there have been small groups of cases caused byhepatitis A, which can be spread by fecal contamination of food or water. But Hepatitis A to E viruses have all been ruled out in the current outbreak. Finding the cause will require careful examination of each case to see if they have any factors in common, he says Graham Cooke, an infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London. We talk about hepatitis every time the transaminases are raised, Gasbarrini explains, “this can happen for various reasons, and in most cases it is not relevant. But in this case, it is not just a temporary inflammation of the liver, but an acute liver failure, which in some cases have led to transplants. Sixty cases in two months in the UK alone is an abnormal number compared to the rarity with which this event usually occurs. All the more so if we consider the very young age group of the patients concerned . ”

Covid or adenovirus: the origin remains unknown

The mystery of the origin of the inflammation is still deep, the causes are unknown. As written, the viruses that cause different types of hepatitis were not detected in any of the analyzed cases. Some of the children admitted to hospital in England have been shown positive for Sars-CoV-2, others for adenovirus but there are no documented connections between the various cases. Some researchers speculate that the outbreak may be caused by a rare delayed response to the Covid infection. Among the “accused” is also adenovirus “although adenovirus generally does not cause hepatitis, which is a rarely known complication of the virus” writes the UK Health Security Agency. Gasbarrini also explains: “In some cases, children have been found positive for an adenovirus or Sars-Cov-2. It is known that some viral infections, including Covid-19, can cause hepatitis. This may be a likely hypothesis, but the coincidence in time is not enough to determine the cause of now. In any case, the warning is high and we must raise the level of attention in the medical profession. ” cases in children under the age of 10 are therefore very unusual, ”adds Will Irving, Professor of Virology at the University of Nottingham.


United Kingdom, in the British Health Security Agency document talks about “Threat to public health” and asks for raise awareness among pediatricians to hold attention by suggesting a list of tests to be performed in children with suspicious symptoms. The ECDC asks doctors to “report cases of acute hepatitis in children up to the age of 16 with serum transaminases, in which hepatitis A to E has been ruled out, to the national public health institutes. In particular, doctors are asked to closely monitor symptoms such as dark urine, pale stools, jaundice, itching, myalgia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, loss of appetite and prescribe specialist tests.

April 14, 2022 (change April 22, 2022 | 16:41)

Leave a Comment