News ID: 269217
Published: 1044 GMT May 18, 2020

Doctors raise hopes of blood test for children with coronavirus-linked syndrome

Doctors raise hopes of blood test for children with coronavirus-linked syndrome

Doctors have identified a group of blood compounds that may help to reveal which children are most at risk of developing a rare but life-threatening immune reaction to coronavirus.

The new syndrome emerged last month after hospitals in London admitted a number of children to intensive care units with symptoms that resembled toxic shock mixed with an inflammatory disorder known as Kawasaki disease, reported.

Hospitals around the world have since reported hundreds of similar cases that many doctors believe are caused by the immune system overreacting to the virus sometimes weeks after infection.

About 100 children in Britain have been treated for the disease. Many have been admitted with a persistent fever, skin rashes, abdominal pain and cold hands or feet. At least two children in the UK have died of the disorder, one of whom was an eight-month-old baby at Plymouth’s Derriford hospital in April.

Researchers at Imperial College London analyzed blood from some of the sickest children and found they had high levels of five compounds that can be measured in routine tests. Two of the compounds, ferritin and C-reactive protein or CRP, are common blood markers for inflammation. The others are linked to heart damage and blood clotting, namely troponin, BNP and so-called ‘D-dimers’.

“We know that these markers are present in the very sick patients and at lower levels in some patients with normal Kawasaki disease,” said Michael Levin, a professor of pediatrics and international child health at Imperial.

“We think they can help us decide which children are at risk of progressing to cardiac failure. Essentially what we’re doing is using the blood markers to try and pick out the children that we need to move from district hospitals to specialist centers and then to intensive care units if needed.”

It will take more research to work out if the markers are reliable. If they are, doctors could potentially identify children most at risk from the condition with a simple blood test.

To investigate further, the researchers have been granted permission from England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, to recruit children into a European-funded trial called Diamonds that was already underway to study inflammatory disorders. Doctors around the UK and in various hospitals in Europe are now collecting blood samples for the study to learn which markers may help them predict the severity of disease and to understand the genetics of the disorder.

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