A new and potentially devastating reaction to an adenovirus illness has been found in Alabama and other parts of the world.
May 9th, 2022
Adenoviral illness is usually a mild to moderate respiratory illness with significant sore throat. This time it appears to be affecting the livers of a subset of children after infection.
From the CDC: All nine children were patients at Children’s of Alabama. These patients were from geographically distinct parts of the state; no epidemiologic links among patients were identified. All patients were immunocompetent with no clinically significant medical comorbidities.
Before admission, among the nine patients, vomiting, diarrhea, and upper respiratory symptoms were reported by seven, six, and three patients,
respectively. At admission, eight patients had scleral icterus, seven had hepatomegaly, six had jaundice, and one had encephalopathy. Elevated transaminases were detected among all patients (alanine aminotransferase [ALT] range = 603–4,696 U/L; aspartate aminotransferase [AST] range = 447–4,000 U/L); total bilirubin ranged from normal to elevated (range = 0.23–13.5 mg/dL, elevated in eight patients). All patients received negative test results for hepatitis viruses A, B, and C, and several other causes of pediatric hepatitis and infections were ruled out including autoimmune hepatitis, Wilson disease, bacteremia, urinary tract infections, and SARS-CoV-2 infection. None of the children had documented history of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Liver biopsies from six patients demonstrated various degrees of hepatitis with no viral inclusions observed, no immunohistochemical evidence of adenovirus, or no viral particles identified by electron microscopy. Three patients developed acute liver failure, two of whom were treated with cidofovir (off-label use) and steroids, and were transferred to a different medical facility where they underwent liver transplantation. Plasma specimens from these two patients were negative for adenovirus by real-time PCR testing upon arrival at the receiving medical facility, but both patients received positive test results when retested by the same real-time PCR test using a whole blood specimen. All patients have recovered or are recovering, including the two transplant recipients.
Adenovirus type 41 is primarily spread via the fecal-oral route and predominantly affects the gut. It is a common cause of pediatric acute gastroenteritis typically with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, often accompanied by respiratory symptoms. Adenovirus is recognized as a cause of hepatitis among immunocompromised children. It might be an underrecognized contributor to liver injury among healthy children; however, the magnitude of this relationship remains under investigation.
This cluster, along with recently identified possible cases in Europe, suggests that adenovirus should be considered in the differential diagnosis of acute hepatitis of unknown etiology among children. Clinicians and laboratorians should be aware of possible differences in adenovirus test sensitivity for different specimen types; tests using whole blood might be more sensitive than those using plasma. CDC is monitoring the situation closely to understand the possible cause of illness and identify potential efforts to prevent or mitigate illness. Enhanced surveillance is underway in coordination with jurisdictional public health partners. Clinicians are encouraged to report possible cases of pediatric hepatitis with unknown etiology occurring on or after October 1, 2021, to public health authorities for further investigation.
These rare but serious events related to this virus are worth noting so that a parent seeing that their child has yellow skin and/or eyes associated with vomiting, diarrhea and congestion should seek immediate medical care. This care should include analysis of the liver and coagulation products.