Scientists find new virus most likely cause of mysterious liver disease in children – POLITICO
Scientists believe they have found the most likely cause of mysterious and sometimes fatal cases of hepatitis in young children, leading them to mothballs COVID-19 as a possible theory.
A new virus was identified in 96% of the cases analyzed in two separate studies: one in Scotland and another in the United Kingdom, compared to only 4% detected in several control cases.
Scientists believe that infection with this virus, called infection with adeno-associated virus 2 (a member of the parvovirus family) somehow caused these unusual clusters of cases: either by co-infection with another virus, possibly alone.
But they all but rule out COVID-19 as a cause. “It is extremely unlikely to be related to COVID-19,” said Emma Thomson, lead author of the Scottish study, during a briefing for journalists.
She said around two-thirds of the children studied had antibodies to the coronavirus – a similar level to the general population due to previous infection. And the fact that hepatitis cases are popping up two years into the pandemic doesn’t fit a COVID theory either, she said.
As of July 12, there have been more than 1,000 cases of unexplained hepatitis in 35 countries and 22 deaths. In the UK, no deaths were recorded, while 12 children required liver transplants.
Adeno-associated virus 2, or AAV2, infection infects most people by age 10, but is not normally associated with human disease, said Thomson, clinical professor and disease consultant. infections at the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research.
Additionally, AAV2 requires infection with another virus, known as a « helper virus, » in order to replicate, Thomson said.
With the spike in mysterious hepatitis cases peaking about two weeks after a sharp rise in adenovirus cases, scientists believe this co-infection may be to blame. In studies, 86% of children had an adenovirus infection. A small number also had herpes virus infection.
Additionally, the Scottish study found a possible genetic risk factor, with 17 out of 20 cases studied having a specific gene (DRB1 04:01), well above the population level of 16%. This gene could identify the most susceptible, but more research is needed.
The scientists – from the University of Glasgow, Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health – have called for further international studies to confirm their hypotheses.
Both studies are now available as preprints and have not been peer reviewed.