According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a mysterious case of acute hepatitis in children has infected more than 700 children in 34 countries and claimed 10 lives.
First reported in April in the UK, the cause behind the liver disease is unknown. So far, the five viruses – A, B, C, D and E – that commonly cause hepatitis have not been detected in any of these cases.
Initially, adenoviruses – a common family of infections responsible for diseases ranging from colds to eye infections – were suspected to be the cause of the condition. But adenovirus 41 was ruled out as the culprit because it does not cause hepatitis in children who do not have weakened immune systems.
A new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition suggests that some children may develop liver inflammation in the weeks following recovery from a mild COVID-19 infection.
The study, led by Israeli researchers, including from Tel Aviv University, reported five pediatric patients who recovered from COVID-19 and later presented with liver injury.
The two types of clinical presentation differed. Two infants, aged 3 and 5 months, who were previously healthy, presented with acute liver failure that rapidly progressed to liver transplantation.
“Their liver transplant showed massive necrosis with cholangiovascular proliferation and lymphocytic infiltration,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
In addition, three children – two of them age 8 and one aged 13 – presented with hepatitis with cholestasis, a type of liver disease.
The team said all three were started on steroid treatment, after which their liver enzymes improved.
According to the team, liver injury is commonly reported in adult patients with severe COVID infection. He noted that children may be affected by multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) as a result of COVID-19, which can injure the liver.
Cases of post-covid liver injuries have also been increasingly reported in adults.
Similarly, two Indian studies also reported acute hepatitis in children during the pandemic.
The first study, led by a team at Bundelkhand Medical College (BMC) in Madhya Pradesh and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research in Chandigarh, examined 475 children who tested positive for COVID in April 2021.
Findings posted on the preprint server, which are not yet peer-reviewed, showed that 37 children (about 8 percent) had COVID Acquired Hepatitis (CAH).
The second study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, looked at a previously healthy three-year-old girl who developed acute liver failure weeks after recovering from a mild COVID infection.
Hepatitis is inflammation and damage of the liver that affects various body functions. It can be detected by jaundice (yellowing of the eyes), dark urine and/or pale stools.
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