Links between the Omicron variant and severe hepatitis in children  

Links between the Omicron variant and severe hepatitis in children

Infection with the omicron variant of the coronavirus may play a role in recent cases of severe acute hepatitis that has been reported in children, according to Japanese researchers.

Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura said countries with a high number of omicron infections, such as Britain and the United States, also reported a relatively higher number of cases of childhood hepatitis.

According to the World Health Organization, 348 possible cases of unexplained hepatitis in children have been confirmed worldwide, with only six countries reporting more than five cases. Japan's health ministry has identified seven internal cases so far, while the US is currently investigating 109 cases of pediatric hepatitis.

Adenovirus, a common virus that can cause a variety of diseases, including gastroenteritis (stomach flu), has been suspected as a possible cause of severe liver disease. In Britain, which has reported 163 cases so far, 126 cases have been tested positive for adenovirus.

Reported symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, and high levels of liver enzymes.

Further research is needed to establish a causal link between omicron infections and pediatric hepatitis, Nishiura said, pointing to the limitations of his study, such as omicron infection data covering all ages, not just children.