UK investigates whether there is a link between new cases of childhood hepatitis and dogs

Experts are looking at whether there could be a link between dogs and the sudden onset of unknown hepatitis in children originating in the UK. This has been confirmed by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in a statement. According to the latest data, updated on May 3, a total of 163 boys and girls, most under 5 years of age, have been diagnosed with the disease, 11 of them requiring a liver transplant.

As reported by the UKHSA, after observing the data there is evidence of “a relatively high number of families that own dogs or other exposures to dogs”, in total three quarters of the minors affected. The Agency has confirmed that a possible link is being studied with the dog However, as it is a very common pet in the United Kingdom, experts say that more studies are needed and it could be a simple coincidence.

348 probable cases of childhood hepatitis


Technician preparing human Hepatitis sample for screening in the laboratory.

Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported yesterday that there are already 348 probable cases of acute childhood hepatitis of unknown origin, not counting 70 additional cases that have not been classified at the moment. The Organization has sounded the alarm after cases occurred in more than twenty countries and thirteen cases remain to be confirmed, according to Philippa Estbrook, the specialist of the WHO global hepatitis program.

The British health authorities warn of evidence linking cases of acute childhood hepatitis with infection of the adenovirus subtype 41. Adenovirus is the most common pathogen detected in 75% of the cases investigated, specifically in 40 of the 53 cases. This is a common and highly contagious family of viruses that causes respiratory infections and conjunctivitis.


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Adenoviruses (here in yellow) are considered a possible hepatitis detected in children

The clinical picture of affected minors is that of acute hepatitis with elevated transaminases, in many cases they present jaundice (yellow discoloration of mucous membranes, eyes or skin) and gastrointestinal symptoms with vomiting. The first cases were confirmed in the United Kingdom and there are already more than twenty countries that have detected cases of childhood hepatitis, including the United States, Canada, Japan and Israel, although the majority of cases have been reported in Europe.

Cases in Spain

Since the infection was detected, 22 cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin have been detected in Spain in people between 0 and 16 years of age with no epidemiological link between them, as reported by the Ministry of Health, which is investigating them.

The age of those affected ranges between 0 and 16 years, in most cases they do not present fever, and in none of them have the viruses usually associated with these ailments been detected (those of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E).

Possible relationship with covid

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A child receives the vaccine against Covid-19

Paco Poyato / EP

Regarding a possible link with covid, Estbrook pointed out that 18% of the cases were positive in the PCR test and now it is being detected if they had past infections through serological tests.

At the moment, no hypothesis has yet been confirmed as the results of the analyzes carried out are partial. Not all children have been analyzed or what is looked at is not detected in all of them. For example, adenovirus subtype 41 has been detected in the blood of 91 of 126 British children tested or 24 of 132 tested have had covid or had it when hepatitis was diagnosed, but more blood tests should be done.

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