Determining the causes of the new hepatitis infection, which was discovered in April in the majority of children under the age of five, has a hard time for scientists. Despite numerous studies published in the National Library of Medicine and the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, trying to explain the origin of this strange disease via Covid-19, no argument seems really convincing. ” In fact, we don’t know much about new pediatric hepatitis says Jean-Michel Polotsky, virologist and head of the Biology Center at Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil. The small number of cases precludes large-scale studies. The disease can even end in disappearance without revealing anything…
Symptoms? First, digestive disorders, then yellowing of the skin and back of the eyes (jaundice), and finally acute liver failure which can be fatal if liver transplantation is not performed. Dozens of children have already died from it all over the world. Typical of acute hepatitis doctors telling themselves when they welcome the first cases in the UK. However, from hepatitis A to E, none of these viruses is detected in patients’ blood. Researchers soon realize that they are dealing with a disease of unknown origin. Cases multiply.
As research progresses, many hypotheses gain ground, but ” without standing out from each other “, sighs Jean-Michel Polotsky. Among the avenues studied: adenovirus 41, which is present in the blood of 78% of young patients. This virus is also known to cause diseases such as gastroenteritis.” This subtype is not uncommon and mainly affects young children and immunocompromised patients. However, to our knowledge, adenovirus 41 has not been reported to cause severe acute hepatitis. ”, asserted two American researchers in a reporter published in The Lancet. Moreover, the virus was not found in any of the infected children’s livers, which makes the adenovirus hypothesis difficult.
It was enough for Covid-19 to arrive as the second suspect, identified in 18% of cases reported in the UK and 11 out of twelve known patients in Israel – most cases of hepatitis also involve very young children (under five years of age). )) to be eligible for vaccination. But “ You have to be very carefulwarns the virologist of Henri Mondor Hospital. SARS-CoV-2 is found only in a marginal portion of the cases studied. The virus can spread very well without being a cause of hepatitis “,” referring to the “strange” distribution of hepatitis cases, which are mainly concentrated in the United Kingdom and the United States. The course of non-infectious toxic hepatitis caused, for example, by drugs, cannot be excluded. “, confirms the virologist. Therefore, the range of possibilities is still enormous.
“We must rest assured, this disease is still rare”
Having peaked at the end of March, the number of cases in the UK has been on a downward slope, and some are hoping to see hepatitis go away as quickly as it came. “ We must rest assured that this disease is still rare ”, upsets Jean-Michel Polotsky, although it can be dangerous. As evidence, about 9% of 180 affected children in the United States required liver transplants, according to figures published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in the United Kingdom, required liver transplants. 11 cases of transplantation.
In any case, debate about the origin of the disease continues to rage within the scientific community. In medicine, establishing a causal relationship between several factors such as viruses, human immunity, etc., is still a difficult and time-consuming task. Acute hepatitis in children may go away before research is complete.
A discussion that transcends an academic setting. Because while the scientific community struggles, kids are in a critical condition. The medicines used differ from one type to another, so misuse due to lack of knowledge of the disease can put lives at risk.