Head of Haematology and Blood Transfusion at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Prof. Sulaimon Akanmu, says COVID-19can have adverse effects on children, but that the number of those infected, so far, are limited because they have adaptive immunity.
Akanmu spoke in reaction to a new research which links a rare immune disease in children to COVID-19.
Researchers say the disease is known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and that it only affects children.
They also said that it appears distinct from Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory reaction thought to strike young children after unknown infections.
According to a March 18, 2021 publication in Science, the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and one of the world’s top academic journals, in March 2020, Audrey Odom John was certain that her teenage patient had a new disease.
As chief of paediatric infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), John is accustomed to mystery cases and rare diagnoses. But within weeks, two more children were admitted with parallel symptoms: fever, rash, inflammation, and shock.
Two of those first three patients had relatives who had recently tested positive for COVID-19, and just as John began to wonder about a connection, a late-April alert from the United Kingdom made the link explicit.
The notice described an uptick in cases that mirrored those at CHOP, with some affected children also testing positive for COVID-19. In the months since, John and pediatric specialists worldwide have raced to understand what’s now called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.
They’ve learned that—contrary to some early suspicions—it appears distinct from Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory reaction thought to strike young children after unknown infections.
They’ve also come to recognize its unique profile of immune system overactivity and have identified effective treatments. Now, they are hunting for clues to why it develops, 4 to 6 weeks after infection with the pandemic coronavirus, and how to spot it early.
Careful tracking of cases has shown that MIS-C is rare, though still frightening to parents: As of early March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had logged more than 2600 MIS-C cases, including 33 deaths. But most youngsters recover after about a week in the hospital.
Reinforcing the Science Magazine findings, Science Immunology, another peer-reviewed journal, stated that the ailment manifests with symptoms like fever, skin rash, inflammation and shock.
They, however, said most of the children recovered after about a week in the hospital.
Speaking to PUNCH HealthWise, Akanmu said COVID-19can have adverse effects on children, but that the number of those infected, so far, are limited because they have adaptive immunity.
He noted that children have what is known as antigen presenting cells, which helps to fight off invaders like the COVID-19virus.
He said though children might have the rare immune disease, they have better innate capacity to fight it off because their lungs have not been overloaded with pollutants like that of the elderly.
He, however, pointed out that when children are born with immunodeficiency states — whether cellular or humoral — they will suffer from all sorts of diseases.
“If such a child is exposed to COVID-19, it will ravage the child, no doubt about that,” Prof. Akanmu noted.
According to the British Society for immunology, immunodeficiency disorders result in a full or partial impairment of the immune system.
It explained that primary immunodeficiencies are due to genetic defects, while secondary ones are caused by environmental factors, such as HIV/AIDS or malnutrition.
Explaining how they were able to explore MIS-C link to COVID-19, the researchers said they compared blood samples from 14 children with the disease against that of 16 children and over 100 adults hospitalised for acute COVID-19.
Speaking from an immune perspective, the lead author, a paediatric infectious disease specialist, Laura Vella, and a co-author from the University of Pennsylvania, John Wherry, said, “There is a decent bit of overlap” in the different cohorts.
They explained that both adults and children with acute COVID-19had high levels of inflammation and immune activation, in which immune cells get revved up to target potential harms.
The researchers said but in MIS-C patients, the degree of activation sometimes exceeded that of the sickest adult patients.
Vella and her colleagues also said that despite the rampant inflammation in the MIS-C patients, it abated quickly with treatment.
“They can turn this around with therapy, whereas people with COVID-19experienced longer lasting inflammation.
“The immunologic findings dovetail with what doctors have seen: Most children with MIS-C improve rapidly with therapies that suppress the immune system.”
The authors also said that U.S. MIS-C patients are routinely treated with intravenous immunoglobulin. But this treatment often isn’t available in under-resourced countries.
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