Kawasaki disease symptoms in kids in UK possibly linked to coronavirus
The discovery of a potential link between an inflammatory condition in children and coronavirus has important implications for developing an effective vaccine, Australian scientists say.
British health authorities reported as many as 12 children, some of whom tested positive to COVID-19, were seriously ill in hospital with severe inflammation in the body.
It prompted Britain’s National Health Service to issue an alert warning that the condition could be related to COVID-19 in children, or that there “may be another as-yet-unidentified infectious pathogen associated with these cases”.
The children had symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome and a condition known as Kawasaki disease, where kids experience abdominal pain, gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiac inflammation.
ANU professor Peter Collignon, an infectious disease physician and microbiologist, said scientists needed to know more about why kids under 15 got the mystery inflammatory condition and whether there was a link with COVID-19.
“We do need to study these children because we still don’t understand why children seem to get this [COVID-19] infection so much less than adults, but also why some people are getting these unusual reactions,” he said.
Professor Collignon said understanding what was going on in children was vital in the quest to find a vaccine that would work well for all ages.
“We have to learn from places [like the UK], where it’s more common, and use the information to make the best and most effective vaccines that are both safe and work.”
A disease of the blood vessels?
As coronavirus spreads around the world, more is being learnt about how the disease works.
Leading Australian paediatric infectious diseases expert David Burgner, from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said COVID-19 seemed to affect the blood vessels as much as it affected the respiratory system.
“There are increasing reports that the illness we are seeing in adults, the sudden deterioration after one week, is due to changes in the blood vessels rather than changes in the lung,” Dr Burgner said.
“That’s in keeping with our evolving understanding of what COVID-19 can do.”
The National Medical Director for England, Stephen Powis, said it was too early to confirm a definitive link between COVID-19 and Kawasaki disease.
“We are not sure at the moment,” he said.
“But our advice to parents is that these are the sort of diseases [that are] very, very rare.”