Global Health Asia-Pacific May 2022 May 2022 - Page 33

New clues to severe COVID in children

Substances in the blood of patients could offer a target for both diagnostics and therapies

Australian researchers have identified the proteins involved in multi-system inflammatory syndrome and acute respiratory distress syndrome , two serious conditions that rarely affect children in the wake of COVID-19 infection . Since this rarity makes detection difficult , the discovery promises to improve diagnosis and treatment .

The former can cause fever , abdominal pain , vomiting , skin rash , and heart disease , while the latter is a potentially fatal lung disease that can lead to organ damage due to lack of oxygen in the blood .
Researchers at Murdoch Children ’ s Research Institute ( MCRI ) in Melbourne compared blood samples from children with both conditions to those from healthy peers and found that certain proteins were present only in children with the conditions .
“ Children are in general less susceptible to COVID-19 and present with milder symptoms , but it remained unclear what caused some to develop very severe disease ,” said MCRI researcher and University of Melbourne PhD student Conor McCafferty , one of the study authors , in a press release . “ Our research was the first to uncover the specific blood clotting and immune protein pathways impacted in children with COVID-19 who developed serious symptoms .”
The hope is that understanding how severe COVID develops in children will lead to both better tests for early diagnosis and therapies for easier treatment .
“ Knowing the mechanisms associated with severe COVID-19 in children and how the blood clotting and immune systems in children react to the virus will help diagnose and detect acute COVID-19 cases and allow us to develop targeted treatment ,” said MCRI Professor Vera Ignjatovic , one of the authors , in the press release .
While only 50 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome have been reported in Australia since the start of the pandemic as of February , press reports suggest a worrying number of children have been affected in India since the pandemic broke out .
The first symptom is a high fever , followed by inflammation of the organs . Depending on the patient , the heart , brain , kidneys , skin , eyes , or digestive tract could be affected , which can lead to heart , respiratory , or renal failure . Early diagnosis of the condition is critical as it ’ s still fairly easy to treat in its early stages .
Early detection , however , is difficult , especially in India . One reason is that a high fever during the Indian summer months could be caused by malaria , viral fever , dengue , or typhoid . Parents who mistake the symptoms for these diseases end up delaying treatment for their children by which time the illness has advanced .
It ’ s not yet known what the risk factors are for multisystem inflammatory syndrome , although researchers do know that many children with the condition had COVID-19 or had been around someone with it .
“ We really do not have much data yet on the kind of impact this current variant could leave on the children following the infection . But considering the higher number of infection among children this time , parents should watch out for MIS-C [ multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children ] symptoms that can develop between four to eight weeks after the infection ,” Dr Prabhas Prasun Giri , associate professor of paediatrics at the Institute of Child Health in India , told the Times of India .
GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com MAY 2022
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