Covid is not to blame for mysterious hepatitis outbreak in children, experts claim


Covid should not be blamed for the mysterious hepatitis outbreak striking children across the world, experts have insisted.

Claims that the pandemic virus is responsible for the unusual illness have been torn apart. 

An Israeli study last week prompted some to label the condition, which has affected around 650 children globally since January, ‘long Covid liver’.

It claimed that five cases in the Middle Eastern country in children were likely caused by a delayed response to catching the virus earlier in the pandemic. 

Experts accused of stoking fears throughout the pandemic jumped on the academic paper, accusing health agencies of covering up the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 on children.

But now infectious diseases experts have dismissed the findings of the study, based on just five children.

Dr Jake Dunning, of Oxford University, tweeted: ‘Whatever the cause of unexplained hepatitis in children, this tiny uncontrolled study doesn’t provide an answer as to the cause.’

He added: ‘One can not simply will Covid to be the cause, just because it supports broader agendas and campaigns.’

And Dr Dunning said hepatitis was only being branded long Covid liver by scientists who ‘really should know better’. 

Dr Jake Dunning, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Oxford, slammed 'some scientists' for trying to 'will Covid to be the cause' of the mysterious hepatitis outbreak in children

Covid should not be blamed for the mysterious hepatitis outbreak in children, experts have insisted after an Israeli study last week labelled the inflammatory liver condition ‘long Covid liver’. Dr Jake Dunning (right), an infectious diseases expert at the University of Oxford, slammed ‘some scientists’ for trying to ‘will Covid to be the cause’. Dr Alasdair Munro (left), a paediatrician at the University of Southampton, says the paper ‘provides almost no useful information in relation to the current cluster [of hepatitis] under investigation’

The mystery hepatitis has been spotted in the US, Western Europe and a handful of other countries. Globally, at least 12 youngsters have died and dozens needed liver transplants

The mystery hepatitis has been spotted in the US, Western Europe and a handful of other countries. Globally, at least 12 youngsters have died and dozens needed liver transplants

What did the ‘long Covid liver’ study claim about the cause of hepatitis? 

An Israeli study last week prompted some to label the condition, which has affected around 650 children globally since January, ‘long Covid liver’.

It claimed five cases in the Middle Eastern country in children were likely caused by a delayed response to catching the virus earlier in the pandemic. 

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, tracked the medical history of five children with hepatitis to establish a cause of the condition.

It looked at children aged three months to 13 years old who had hepatitis in Tel Aviv since the start of the year.

All five had been infected with Covid between 21 days and four months before the onset of hepatitis.

Two children aged three and five months old had to have liver transplants because of acute liver failure. All the children survived.

The authors suggested the paper proves Covid can cause hepatitis later down the line.

Writing in the paper, the authors said: ‘We report two distinct patterns of potentially long Covid-19 liver manifestations in children.’

Although rare, hepatitis is a known cause of liver failure in children every year. 

The sheer number of cases and the fact experts have not yet found a clear cause for the current cluster of cases is what has sparked alarm. 

Some 240 cases have been spotted in the UK since January, with none resulting in deaths.

The US has seen 274 cases, with six children dying from the disease.

Scientists still do not know what is causing the life-threatening liver disease, which has forced scores of children to get liver transplants, including 10 in Britain.

But the chief culprit is thought to be adenovirus, which usually only causes cold-like symptoms or diarrhea.

A leading theory is that it is causing an unusually severe illness in children because their immune systems have been weakened due to lockdowns and school closures during the pandemic. 

However, health chiefs are still investigating whether a mutated strain of adenovirus is to blame.

The Israeli study, in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, tracked five children with hepatitis to establish a cause of the condition.

Children were aged between three months and 13.

All five — who were struck down this year — had caught Covid up to four months before the onset of hepatitis. Only one had adenovirus.

Two children aged three and five months old had to have liver transplants because of acute liver failure. All the children survived, however.

The authors suggested the paper proves Covid can cause hepatitis later down the line, a theory peddled by some groups in the scientific community who have been critical of treating the virus like flu.

Writing in the paper, the authors said: ‘We report two distinct patterns of potentially long Covid-19 liver manifestations in children.’

But Dr Alasdair Munro, a paediatrician at the University of Southampton, said the paper ‘falls at the first hurdle’ because it does not say why the particular children were chosen.

Writing in his blog, he said: ‘This new study provides almost no useful information in relation to the current cluster [of hepatitis] under investigation.

‘A series of five patients, some of whom had hepatitis more than three months after their initial infection, does not establish causality. 

‘This case series does not look similar to the cluster under investigation in the UK, and does not provide any evidence that the current exceedance of acute, severe hepatitis is due to Covid.’ 

He also said hepatitis can be triggered by any viral infection, meaning it is possible Covid would cause the complication in some children. 

Graph shows: The number of unexplained hepatitis cases detected in children in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each week up to May 16

Graph shows: The number of unexplained hepatitis cases detected in children in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each week up to May 16

Adenovirus has been detected in the majority of global hepatitis cases in children. Graph shows: Detection of viruses in British child hepatitis cases up to mid-May

Adenovirus has been detected in the majority of global hepatitis cases in children. Graph shows: Detection of viruses in British child hepatitis cases up to mid-May

Scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday claimed there was no surge in hospitalisations or liver transplants due to hepatitis among children this winter.

They said this suggested there were no more cases of child hepatitis being recorded now than before Covid hit the country. 

Independent scientists said the results suggested that a previous Covid infection may not be behind the illness, because hepatitis levels were the same as pre-pandemic.

But some experts continued to insist Covid was the problem, accusing the CDC of failing to investigate the virus as a cause.

Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist at the New England Complex Systems Institute thinktank who has faced criticism for Covid alarmism, suggested the Israeli study proved a link to the virus.

Writing on Twitter, he said: ‘Pretty sure the CDC was wrong on this. 

‘[The] University of Tel Aviv study points to Covid as [the] cause of recent unexplained acute liver failure among children. 

‘CDC had blamed it on adenovirus before without testing liver for SARS-CoV-2.’

Andrew Longhurst, a health policy researcher at Simon Fraser University in in British Columbia, Canada, said: ‘That “mystery” hepatitis in kids has been labelled “Long Covid Liver” in children, especially unvaccinated. 

‘Will the Covid minimizers apologise? Of course not.’

Dr Lisa Iannattone, a dermatologist at Montreal University, said anyone denying Covid is the sole cause of the hepatitis outbreak ‘is not someone to be taken seriously’.

She tweeted: ‘I don’t care what “very serious institution” they work for. This is absurd. It’s Covid.’

The majority of cases have been spotted in children aged three to five who were initially hit with diarrhoea and nausea before later getting jaundice — the yellowing of the skin or eyes. 

Other symptoms can include vomiting, grey-coloured faeces, stomach pains, tiredness, a fever and breathing issues.

The UKHSA has ruled out Covid vaccines as a possible cause because the vast majority of affected children are too young to have been jabbed.

Q&A: What is the mysterious global hepatitis outbreak and what is behind it? 

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection or liver damage from drinking alcohol. 

Some cases resolve themselves, with no ongoing issues, but a fraction can be deadly, forcing patients to need liver transplants to survive.

What are the symptoms?

People who have hepatitis generally have fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools and joint pain.

They may also suffer from jaundice — when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. 

Why are experts concerned?

Hepatitis is usually rare in children, but experts have already spotted more cases in the current outbreak than they would normally expect in a year.

Cases are of an ‘unknown origin’ and are also severe, according to the World Health Organization. 

What are the top theories? 

Weakened immunity

British experts tasked with investigating the spate of illnesses believe the endless cycle of lockdowns may have played a contributing role.

Restrictions may have weakened children’s immunity because of reduced social mixing, leaving them at heightened risk of adenovirus. 

This means even ‘normal’ adenovirus could be causing the severe outcomes, because children are not responding to it how they did in the past. 

Adenovirus mutation

Other scientists said it may have been the adenovirus that has acquired ‘unusual mutations’.

This would mean it could be more transmissible or better able to get around children’s natural immunity.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk