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Immediately after the COVID pandemic’s extensive societal constraints, reports from the UK in late 2021 revealed a sudden rise in a strange kind of hepatitis (liver inflammation) among young, previously healthy youngsters.
Similar occurrences were soon corroborated by reports from the USA and other European nations. While many kids only had a moderate case of the sickness, some of them developed serious liver failure and required an urgent liver transplant to save their lives.
The significant increase in infant hepatitis cases was previously attributed to undetected COVID infections. Studies, however, revealed that the condition was linked to adenovirus infection, which is a common cause of pink eye or seasonal respiratory and diarrheal disorders in kids. Typically, these infections start off with a brief cough and cold or with stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea. The liver is rarely involved, and serious liver disease is quite unusual.
Dr. Mettu Srinivas Reddy, Director – Liver Transplantation & HPB Surgery, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai, was interviewed by the OnlyMyHealth editorial team. He notes that this abrupt change in an illness’s severity has baffled medical professionals around the world, and different ideas have been advanced by researchers.
Some contend that a recent or concurrent COVID infection altered how children are affected by viral infection.
Two recent UK research point to a more nuanced link. According to these investigations, some kids with a particular genetic make-up may have an extensive liver injury as a result of a dual viral infection (an adenovirus and an adeno-associated virus 2). The Glasgow, Scotland study also discovered that HLADRB1*04:0, a rare gene variant seen in just 16 percent of the Scottish population, was present in 8 out of 9 children with severe disease, suggesting a genetic relationship to the risk of getting hepatitis.
According to current understanding, the two to three years of stringent social restrictions and school closings have resulted in a significant decrease in adenovirus-related infections. Children are now less immune to these prevalent viral infections as a result, rendering them more vulnerable to infection. These infections, some of which have resulted in severe liver disease, may have increased suddenly as a result of the swift elimination of social constraints. However, it’s possible that kids with the aforementioned genetic variation could be particularly vulnerable to liver issues.
At least twenty children have died from the ailment, and over a thousand cases of unexplained hepatitis have been documented from around the world to date. Thankfully, data indicate that the rate of illnesses is rapidly decreasing. It is comforting that no such infections have been detected in India thus far.
Due to genetic variations amongst ethnicities, it is also plausible that our kids may be less prone to serious liver involvement than their Western counterparts.
In India, viral hepatitis is a prevalent issue, but the majority of cases are brought on by hepatitis A or E viruses, particularly during the rainy season due to tainted food and water.
However, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any signs of liver involvement in kids who get a cold or stomach ache. A yellowish tint to the eyes, abdominal bloating, lethargy, or increased tiredness are some of these symptoms.