Hepatitis: Adenovirus is prime suspect in mystery outbreak in children

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It is still unclear what is behind a worrying surge in cases of liver disease among young children in several countries, but a lack of social mixing during lockdowns could be a factor



Health



28 April 2022

Adenovirus structure, computer illustration showing the surface structure of the viruss outer protein coat (capsid). Many adenoviruses infect the respiratory tract, causing common cold-like symptoms, and also infect the eyes and gut, particularly in children. The yellow protrusions are known as penton fibres and are found at each of the 12 vertices of the capsid. Each fibre is tipped with proteins, which allow the virus to enter its target cell.

Illustration of adenoviruses

KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

Doctors in the UK are investigating whether an adenovirus is behind an unexplained outbreak of liver disease in young children, as case numbers rise in countries including the UK, the US and Israel.

So far, there have been 169 identified cases of hepatitis, or liver inflammation, in 11 countries. Some have been quick to blame the outbreak on either covid-19, its vaccines or lockdowns. But in the UK, which has had the largest number of identified cases, doctors said on 25 April that the cause is still unknown. …

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