FRIDAY, May 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Evidence continues to mount that a specific strain of adenovirus could be implicated in a wave of American children who have developed acute hepatitis of unknown origin, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Friday.

“The evidence is accumulating that there’s a role for adenovirus, particularly adenovirus 41,” Jay Butler, M.D., the CDC deputy director for infectious diseases, said in a Friday media briefing. “The exact role that it plays, I think, is where we’re really wanting to focus the investigation.”

One more U.S. death related to pediatric hepatitis was reported on Thursday, Butler said, raising the national death count to six. However, researchers are still struggling to determine whether there has been a true increase in cases of pediatric hepatitis in the United States or if public health officials have simply stumbled across an existing pattern that has been revealed due to improvements in detection.

“Thus far, we have not been able to document an actual increase in the overall number of pediatric hepatitis cases,” Butler stressed. “For example, we’re looking at specific emergency department visits for pediatric hepatitis, as well as liver transplant in children nationwide. Currently, these numbers are stable.”

Many of the pediatric hepatitis cases have been associated with adenovirus type 41, although adenoviruses have not been previously identified as a cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children. Genetic sequencing has shown that multiple viral strains of adenovirus type 41 have been involved in the hepatitis cases, which appears to rule out an early possibility that a single newly mutated strain of the virus could be responsible, Butler said.

CDC investigators also are keeping open the possibility that COVID-19 infections could be contributing to the hepatitis cases, Butler said. Researchers are performing antibody tests to determine if some of the afflicted children had a past infection with COVID-19 and whether any had developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome as a result of their infection, Butler said.

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