Research reveals dramatic increase in baby virus admissions to Leicesters hospitals

A 'sudden and dramatic increase' in a serious virus among babies admitted to hospitals in Leicester from May to August this year has been recorded in a new medical report authored by Dr Julian Tang from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and University Hospitals of Leicester.

Researchers found an 'unusually high number of cases' of human parechovirus (HPeV) when testing infants who had sepsis, respiratory illnesses and other symptoms including rapid breathing and rashes.

The disease usually causes mild stomach and intestine inflammation and respiratory infections, although it can lead to brain damage and severe cardiovascular problems.

Spinal fluid was tested for signs of the virus and confirmed in 26 children -15 boys and 11 girls - from May 8 to August 2.

The affected infants in Leicester were between eight and 197 days old and had symptoms including high fever up to 40C, lethargy and drowsiness. In most cases they were discharged after a few days and the disease settled by itself.

However, one patient had a more severe illness, suffering a seizure and requiring intravenous antibodies before being discharged 10 days later.

The findings were published in the journal Eurosurveillance, a peer-reviewed medical journal covering infectious diseases and topics with particular relevance to Europe.

It follows reports of a mass outbreak of the virus among 55 infants in Queensland, Australia, between September 2015 and February this year.

The report said clinicians should 'consider routine parechovirus testing in young children presenting with sepsis' and respiratory illness. It says the increase in the number of infections in children is being 'confirmed elsewhere in the UK'.

Findings recommend routine testing for HPeV as the cause of sepsis in young children as it may 'prevent prolonged unnecessary empirical antibiotic treatment, thereby reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance arising'.