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COVID-19 Might be Linked to Rare Inflammatory Disorder in Young Children

By: Sai Srihaas Potu

As the days go by, scientists are learning more and more about the deadly virus that is attacking the world. From a small place in Wuhan, China COVID-19 has plagued many countries and taken the lives of thousands of people. According to recent research, there is evidence stacking up to support a link between COVID-19 and a rare, mysterious inflammatory disease in children, which can be life-threatening.

Though reports of the new disease have trickled in from several countries, many of them have been anecdotal to this point. Initially, COVID-19 was treated as a slightly more severe version of the flu but as the case count rises doctors are starting to see that it can be detrimental to many different organs in the body. Now, doctors in an area of Italy hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic have published detailed data on a cluster of 10 children who experienced an unusual inflammatory disease amid the outbreak, lending solid support for the link. Doctors in the Bergamo province of Italy have described a series of ten cases of young children with symptoms similar to a rare inflammatory disease called Kawasaki Disease appearing since the COVID-19 pandemic arose.

Kawasaki disease is a rare inflammatory syndrome that only affects 10 out of 100,000 kids in the entire world. It causes swelling in walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body. The inflammation tends to affect the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle. With current treatment methods, children can recover easily from Kawasaki disease. The most dangerous problem related to Kawasaki disease is the threat of vasculitis, especially in the body's medium-sized arteries. This vasculitis can be especially dangerous when it damages the heart's coronary arteries, causing an abnormal widening or bulge in these vessels.

Recently, there have been reports of children in the US contracting this rare inflammatory disease as well. The million-dollar question that is being asked: How is this rare inflammatory disease that is said to be caused by genetic factors linked to the coronavirus?

Researchers say that the COVID-related cases should be classified as ‘Kawasaki-like Disease’, as the symptoms were different and more severe in patients treated after March 2020. However, they caution that their report is based on only a small number of cases and larger studies will be required to confirm the association. The CDC has warned other countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that they might see a rise in cases similar to the Kawasaki Disease.

Understanding this inflammatory phenomenon in children might provide vital information about immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 and possible correlates of immune protection that might have relevance both for adults and children. In particular, if this is an antibody-mediated phenomenon, there might be implications for vaccine studies, and might also explain why some children become very ill with COVID-19, while the majority are unaffected or asymptomatic.

Until further research is conducted and better trends can be seen, scientists will not be able to determine the link between these two deadly diseases. Thankfully, children with the condition can usually be treated with intravenous immunoglobulin, an antibody-rich plasma infusion that's been used to treat Kawasaki disease for decades. Doctors say the young patients will need to be followed closely in the coming years for further heart problems. Kawasaki disease puts kids at risk of having coronary problems later in childhood, which can cause premature heart attacks.

As the days go by, we are learning more and more about COVID and until a vaccine is created we might see many more problems similar to this one.


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