Over the last few months a number of young children have developed acute severe hepatitis of unknown origin. The WHO has reported around 1,010 probable cases in 35 countries. In the UK, 263 case have been reported (as of 4 July) which includes a number who have been hospitalised and a small number (around 12) who have required a liver transplant.
Two studies – one looking at Scottish data and one looking at data from across the four nations of the UK – have looked at some of these cases of hepatitis of unknown cause in children. The studies look at both cases and controls (children without hepatitis) to gather evidence on any differences that might be associated with hepatitis.
The studies tested for the presence of viruses in blood and in livers (in those who had liver transplants). One of the studies also carried out whole-genome sequencing of viruses detected, and one also looked at the genetics of the children to identify whether any of the children had underlying susceptibility to acute hepatitis.
Journalists dialled in to this press briefing to hear from the scientists who have carried out these studies and to ask any questions.
Please note this data is two preprints, so it is early work that has not yet been through peer-review and is not published in a journal.
Prof Judith Breuer, Clinical Professor of Virology at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS ICH) and consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH)
Dr Sofia Morfopoulou, Sir Henry Wellcome fellow at UCL GOS ICH
Dr Antonia Ho, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research
Prof Emma Thomson, Clinical Professor and Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA (to take part in Q&A)
Dr Jim McMenamin, Head of Health Protection (Infection Services), Public Health Scotland (to take part in Q&A)
This Briefing was accompanied by an SMC Roundup of Comments.