Vanderbilt doctors investigate mysterious liver disease in children

Posted at 9:52 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 23:48:45-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As a mysterious liver disease continues to impact children across the world and in Tennessee, doctors at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt are working to find out why.

Doctors at Vanderbilt are teaming up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other physicians across the country to determine the origins of the disease that is impacting children.

A total of 169 cases of acute hepatitis have been reported worldwide. While most cases have been in Europe, nine cases were reported in Alabama and four patients have been treated at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. A few of the patients have required liver transplants, and one person died. As a result, the CDC issued a public health alert asking physicians to be on the lookout for unusual cases of severe liver disease in children.

"Thankfully none of the children at Vanderbilt have had liver failure," said Dr. Saeed Mohammad, director of the Pediatric Solid Organ Transplant Center at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital. "They have all recovered. No one has needed a transplant. They have all be discharged and gone home."

Some of the cases have involved Adenovirus, which can cause respiratory symptoms, fever or gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. However, Dr. Mohammad said the virus doesn't always cause hepatitis.

Common symptoms of acute hepatitis include: flu-like symptoms, fever, nausea and/or vomiting, decreased appetite and abdominal pain. A patient may also have yellowing of the eyes or skin.

Dr. Mohammad said there is no need for parents to panic. The best advice is to continue the same hygiene measures that have been in place over the past two years during the pandemic to help decrease the risk of spreading infections.

"Things like washing your hands, and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze," said Dr. Mohammad. "That is important to do so the germs don’t spread."

If parents believe their child is displaying symptoms, they should reach out to their pediatrician.