Unraveling Pediatric Hepatitis Mysteries: The Epochal Journey of a New York Epidemiologist

Know all about Dr Nitin Ghadge, a New York-based epidemiologist who is doing groundbreaking research on acute hepatitis in children.
Dr Nitin Ghadge
Dr Nitin Ghadge
HT Brand Studio Published: 2 Feb 2024, 01:53 pm IST
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The work of emerging diseases is among the most critical threads in contemporary medicine. Dr. Nitin Ghadge, an epidemiologist at the New York State Department of Health, stands at the forefront of this noble pursuit. His recent groundbreaking research, focusing on acute hepatitis of unknown etiology in children under 10 years, not only sheds light on a perplexing medical enigma but also paves the way for future explorations in pediatric healthcare.

On April 21, 2022, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a health advisory, urging healthcare professionals in the United States to report any occurrences of hepatitis with unknown causes in patients under the age of 10 to public health authorities. The discovery of similar cases in both America and Europe served as the impetus for this advisory. A significant percentage of the patients first reported exhibiting the presence of adenovirus in their whole blood samples. Consequently, the health advisory recommended that doctors give careful consideration to obtaining viral testing, with a preference for whole blood specimens. Public health officials at the jurisdictional level looked over the medical records of patients who met the criteria listed in the health advisory. These patients were specifically those who were labeled as “patients under investigation” (PUIs). Additionally, interviews were conducted with the caregivers of these patients.

Children who were under the age of 10, had elevated liver transaminase levels above 500 U/L, and presented with hepatitis of unknown cause that occurred on or after October 1, 2021, were chosen for additional investigation as part of a nationwide surveillance study in the US, a study where Dr. Ghadge was a key member of, as part of the unknown etiology group. The study looked at the abstracts of medical records that included things like demographics, medical history, symptoms, lab results, immunization records, radiographic and hepatic pathology findings, diagnoses, treatments, and results. In order to collect information about hepatitis symptoms, healthcare utilization, medical history, dietary habits, travel history, possible exposure sources, and cases of illness among close contacts or at educational institutions, caregivers were interviewed. The clinicians used best judgment to assess the samples of blood, stool, respiratory, and tissues; those that could be forwarded to the CDC for additional testing or pathology were then processed.

Adenovirus was found in whole blood samples from a large proportion of the patients who first presented. Thus, the health warning suggested that physicians think about getting viral testing, preferably using full blood samples. Dr. Nitin Ghadge, a key figure in this investigation working with the New York State Department of Health, sheds light on this concerning trend. He adds, “Physicians need to be vigilant about this condition as the etiology is still unknown, and more research in this regard is necessary in order to understand the epidemiology and etiology of this outbreak.” The advisory, prompted by similar cases in both the United States and Europe, underscores the urgency of comprehending this condition’s etiology.

Dr. Ghadge joined the New York Department of Health in 2017 as an Epidemiologist. He was a key member of several investigations and outbreaks including his work on hepatitis B and C, where he served as a state contact for regional and local health departments. He successfully detected an outbreak of hepatitis A and C in central New York and presented his findings at the CSTE conferences in 2021. He also worked on measles outbreak response in New York State in 2019 for which the Commissioner of Department Of Health presented the “Commissioner’s Award” for his outstanding contribution to the State of New York for his 2019 measles outbreak response. He played a vital role in controlling outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, and improving the overall health outcomes of the city’s residents.

Dr. Ghadge’s expertise in epidemiology and dedication to public health was again recognized in 2022. He was awarded the prestigious “Empire Whole Health Heroes” award for saving lives through work on 50 communicable diseases. The award recognized his outstanding contributions to the field of epidemiology and his role in improving public health outcomes in various regions across the United States.

In June 2022, Dr. Ghadge co-authored a pivotal research paper titled “Interim analysis of acute hepatitis of unknown etiology in children aged <10 years—United States, October 2021–June 2022″. Published during a critical time when the world was grappling with mysterious cases of pediatric hepatitis, this study became a cornerstone in understanding the disease. It reported 296 cases of hepatitis of unknown etiology in U.S. pediatric patients, with adenovirus detected in 45% of these cases. This revelation was crucial, guiding the medical community toward new diagnostic approaches and emphasizing the need for comprehensive viral testing.

The significance of Dr. Ghadge’s work was further underscored when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged his study in their health advisory. This was a rare and notable achievement, highlighting the importance of his findings in the broader context of public health. The study’s implications extended beyond the borders of the United States, resonating with global health organizations and shaping pediatric hepatitis research worldwide.

Dr. Ghadge’s expertise and insights were also showcased at the 2023 Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) conference. Here, he presented his research on syndromic surveillance of hepatitis of unknown etiology in children, sharing valuable knowledge and fostering collaborative discussions among health professionals. His presentation illuminated not only the disease’s intricacies but also epidemiology’s critical role in addressing public health challenges.

Furthermore, the implications of his findings on acute hepatitis extend far beyond the laboratory and the clinic. They serve as a clarion call for a more nuanced understanding of pediatric illnesses, urging healthcare systems worldwide to adopt more holistic and vigilant approaches to child health.

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This dedication to unraveling medical mysteries is not just about solving a single health crisis; it reflects a broader commitment to safeguarding the health and well-being of future generations. Dr. Nitin Ghadge, through his exemplary work, continues to inspire a new wave of medical professionals, researchers, and public health advocates. His journey is a testament to the power of relentless inquiry, unwavering commitment, and the enduring pursuit of knowledge for the greater good.”

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