Kids in US, Europe diagnosed with mysterious liver disease
Health officials in the United States and several European nations are looking into mysterious cases of serious liver disease in children for which there seems to be no known cause. The UK is investigating 74 such cases, while the US's Alabama reported nine cases, raising concerns among authorities. However, some officials believe the disease may be linked to a virus associated with colds.
Why does this story matter?
- The development comes at a time when several countries are experiencing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, raising concerns worldwide.
- Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted about this mysterious liver disease that's been reported only among children until now.
- No deaths have been reported so far, but overall six cases were severe enough to necessitate liver transplants, the WHO noted.
What are the symptoms of this disease?
The symptoms seem similar to those of other general liver diseases such as hepatitis or liver inflammation, though the disease's actual cause remains unknown. There have been reports of jaundice, diarrhea, and abdominal pain among the affected children as well. According to the WHO, some of the affected European children's samples have tested positive for adenovirus, while some others tested positive for COVID-19, too.
Facts surrounding the mysterious disease
Meanwhile, Alabama and the UK have been witnessing an increase in severe hepatitis cases among children since November 2021 and January 2022, respectively. However, hepatitis type A, B, C, and E viruses—which generally cause such illnesses—were ruled out in laboratory testing. So far, the illness has been defined as severe. It is yet to be ascertained if international travel has any role to play.
WHO on the new mysterious liver disease
"Given the increase in cases reported over...past one month and enhanced case search activities, more cases are likely to be reported in the coming days," the WHO said. The WHO first learned about the disease when 10 children in Scotland were diagnosed with liver problems. The illness is mostly affecting kids aged one-six. Besides the aforementioned countries, Spain and Ireland are investigating similar cases.
Possible relationship between adenoviruses and the mysterious disease
The surge in the cases of the mysterious liver disease reportedly coincides with the recent rise in the spread of adenoviruses. To note, adenoviruses have been linked to hepatitis in kids in the past, but only in those with weakened immune systems. So, officials are also looking into a possible link between the illness and adenovirus 41, which is generally associated with gut inflammation.
'Adenovirus may be the cause...but investigators are still learning more'
Adenoviruses are a type of virus that cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, fever, and pink eye, among others. However, some versions can cause other issues, such as stomach and intestinal inflammation. "At this time adenovirus may be the cause for these, but investigators are still learning more—including ruling out the more common causes of hepatitis," stated the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.