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Blood tests might help predict severe coronavirus syndrome in children

Published May 18th, 2020 7:36PM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms

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  • Doctors in the UK have observed five blood test parameters that can be used as markers for the severe COVID-19 syndrome affecting some children.
  • A mix of toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, the syndrome can be fatal to some children who were infected with the novel coronavirus.
  • The blood test can serve as a warning of complications, and a current study in Europe will now monitor the condition.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

The novel coronavirus mainly affects adults. Older patients and people who have preexisting conditions are at the highest risk of developing life-threatening complications. Children are more likely to get a mild version of the disease, but some of them are at risk of developing a dangerous syndrome that can be deadly.

UK doctors issued a warning about the new COVID-19 condition a few weeks ago, and then it was observed in other countries, including the United States. Some children died from these unexpected COVID-19 complications in Britain and New York as the number of cases continued to mount. But UK doctors think they’ve figured out a way to predict whether children will get the COVID-19 syndrome or not.

Hundreds of cases have been reported worldwide so far, The Guardian reports. Doctors suspect that the immune system may be overreacting to the virus sometimes weeks after the initial infection.

The syndrome includes symptoms like persistent fever, skin rashes, abdominal pain, and cold hands and feet. Physicians describe it as toxic shock mixed with Kawasaki disease. The most severe complications of this pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome include inflammation of the blood vessels in the heart, which can lead to fatal coronary aneurysms.

Researchers from Imperial College London looked at blood test results from some of the sickest children and found that they had high levels of five blood compounds: ferritin, C-reactive protein (CRP), troponin, BNP, and D-dimers.

The first two are markers for inflammation, while the other three can be linked to heart damage and blood clotting. The latter is a phenomenon observed in adult patients, and it’s responsible for strokes and heart attacks — two of the more unusual COVID-19 symptoms. Blood clotting in adults might also lead to complications, according to a recent study.

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

The doctor added that the five markers can help physicians decide whether children are progressing to cardiac failure or not. That way, they can determine which children have to be moved from district hospitals to specialist centers and then intensive care units.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty allowed the researchers to include the children in a European study called Diamonds which is studying inflammatory disorders. The doctors will collect blood samples from children for the research and see which markers can help to predict the severity of the disease and understand the genetics.

Doctors will also use an international database to add anonymized information about children, including blood test results and treatments that are given, so that others can find out which therapies are effective.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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