Reports of children suffering from a serious coronavirus-linked inflammatory condition have scared parents everywhere, but new research suggests that treatment with Covid-19 antibodies might help in the worst cases.
The inflammatory condition, now known as Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), mimics some of the symptoms seen in toxic shock syndrome and a serious heart condition called Kawasaki disease.
Those symptoms include fever, lethargy, severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea or vomiting, swollen lymph nodes and rashes.
Reports of cases in New York City first surfaced two weeks ago, and the latest count shows that 147 children have contracted the condition, NBC New York reported.
Persistent severe inflammation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also confirmed the link, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.
A small number of cases have been reported in other states, including New Jersey, California, Louisiana and Mississippi, the New York Times reported. At least 50 cases have been reported in European countries.
The new study, from researchers in France and Switzerland, included 35 children with fever, cardiogenic shock (when the heart suddenly can't pump enough blood) or acute left ventricular dysfunction (when the lower left chamber of the heart can't pump enough blood) with inflammation who were admitted to paediatric intensive care units from 22 March to 30 April.
Twenty-five of the children received coronavirus antibodies from donated blood, known as immune globulin treatment, and 12 were treated with intravenous steroids. Three children were treated with an interleukin 1 receptor antagonist due to persistent severe inflammation, and 23 patients were treated with heparin. None of the children died.
Further research needed
Treatment with the antibodies and steroids restored heart function in the majority of children.
"The majority of patients recovered within a few days following intravenous immune globulin, with adjunctive steroid therapy used in one third. Treatment with immune globulin appears to be associated with recovery of left ventricular systolic function," wrote the researchers led by Dr Damien Bonnet of Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris. The study was published on 17 May in the journal Circulation.
Children with the syndrome may initially have severe symptoms – with some requiring mechanical assistance with breathing and blood circulation – but treatment with immune globulin and steroids appeared to help in rapid recovery, the study authors said in a journal news release.
Further research is needed to understand all aspects of this condition and whether patients may be at risk for long-term heart complications, the authors concluded.