Expert: Severe hepatitis of 'unknown origin' in children being investigated in Canada

Published: 2 May 2022

Public health officials say they're investigating cases of severe liver disease "of unknown origin" among children in Canada as global scientists race to understand a mysterious hepatitis outbreak that has affected nearly 200 youths around the world. The latest available data from the World Health Organization shows at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin have been reported in close to a dozen countries, with the bulk of the reports — 114 — from the U.K. (CBC News)

Here is an expert from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue:

Selena Sagan, Associate Professor, Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology & Immunology

The recent increased incidence of severe acute hepatitis in young children in several countries around the world is alarming with nearly 200 cases reported to date. Thus far, common viruses known to cause hepatitis have not been detected, and there doesn’t appear to be a clear link to a particular food or toxin. An adenovirus has been detected in some of the cases, but it is unclear whether this is the culprit, or if there is a link to SARS-CoV-2 or another pathogen. Importantly, there is no evidence to suggest a link to the COVID-19 vaccine as the vast majority of children did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

Selena Sagan is an Associate Professor cross-appointed to the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology & Immunology. She holds the Canada Research Chair in RNA Biology and Viral Infections and her laboratory studies positive-strand RNA viruses of the Flaviviridae family (including Hepatitis C virus, Dengue virus and Zika virus) as well as negative-strand RNA viruses (including Respiratory Syncytial Virus). The main focus of her research program is RNA-RNA and protein-RNA interactions at the host-virus interface.

selena.sagan [at] (English)

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