Health is already investigating 22 cases of childhood hepatitis of unknown origin

La Paz Hospital in Madrid, where the patients are admitted. / Jose Ramon barks

Four of the eight samples analyzed have tested positive for adenovirus, the main hypothesis handled by researchers

Alvaro Soto

The Ministry of Health has already detected 22 cases of childhood hepatitis of unknown origin, 16 of them in children under 11 years of age, between January 1 and April 29 of this year, although these patients have no epidemiological link between them, according to the latest report from the department of Carolina Darias, published this Friday. Four of the eight samples tested positive for adenovirus, the cause to which investigations currently point, and in one of them, the National Center for Microbiology, through genomic sequencing, found a type 2 adenovirus. The clinical picture of this disease is associated with a rapid and marked elevation of transaminases.

Health explains that the epidemiology services "are applying an exhaustive questionnaire" to all identified cases, but adds that so far no common cause has been found. In any case, the ministry has launched a communication through the Alert Report and the Public Health Commission and to the scientific societies of Pediatrics and hospital management to carry out an observation and active search for possible cases treated since the beginning of this year. .

The alarm over this hepatitis arose in the United Kingdom, which is the European country with the most cases, 111 (81 in England, 14 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and 5 in Northern Ireland), ahead of Spain. In addition, eleven countries have reported cases: Austria (2), Belgium (2), Denmark (6), France (2), Ireland (5), Italy (17), Germany (1), the Netherlands (4), Norway (2), Poland (1), Romania (1). In total, 166 cases have been reported, of which 50 have been positive for adenovirus and fifteen have required liver transplantation (one of them, in Spain).

For now, laboratory tests have excluded hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses in all cases, and the usual causes of hepatitis or travel history have also been ruled out. Scientists are investigating other types of infectious, toxic, or chemical causes. "Some of the hypotheses that are being studied is that these hepatitis are being caused by microorganisms, by exposure to toxins or by a disproportionate immune response by the patient himself," explains the pediatrician and epidemiologist Quique Bassat. “We have to determine what role adenoviruses are playing, which usually cause infections in the upper respiratory tract or gastroenteritis, but it is not normal for them to cause serious illness. That it has suddenly become 'bad' is strange, "adds Bassat, before detailing that among children the contagion is fecal-oral and asks for extreme hygiene measures, such as cleaning hands or disinfecting surfaces.

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