WEDNESDAY April 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) – In very rare cases, children infected with the new coronavirus may develop a serious illness known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). Now, research shows that these young patients often develop neurological symptoms in addition to breathing problems they might be facing.
These neurological symptoms were present in half of the children hospitalized with MIS-C, according to British researchers.
“With this new inflammatory syndrome that develops after children are infected with the coronavirus, we are still learning how the syndrome affects children and what to watch out for,” said study author Dr Omar Abdel-Mannan, from University College London. His team is due to present the new findings at this month’s virtual annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.
“We found that many children presented with neurological symptoms involving both the central and peripheral nervous systems,” the researcher explained in a press release from the academy.
MIS-C is a rare disease that typically occurs in children who have previously been infected with COVID-19. It usually starts about a month after someone contracts COVID-19.
The condition is marked by an influx of inflammation that affects the functioning of organs and systems throughout the body. Although the exact cause is unknown, MIS-C appears to be ingrained in the body’s immune system overreacting to the COVID-19 virus. Many children with MIS-C require hospitalization, but treatment options are generally effective and most children recover. However, scientists and doctors are still studying the potential long-term effects.
In the new study, Abdel-Mannan’s group analyzed the medical records of 46 COVID-19 patients under the age of 18 (average age 10) with MIS-C admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London between April and September from last year.
Of these children, 24 presented with new neurological symptoms or signs upon admission to hospital. Twenty-four had headaches, 14 had encephalopathy (inflammation of the brain sometimes caused by infection), six had voice abnormalities or hoarseness, six had hallucinations, five had coordination problems (ataxia), three had peripheral nerve problems, and one had seizures.
Children with neurological symptoms were more likely to have a MIS-C so severe that they needed a ventilator and medication to help stabilize their blood flow, compared to those without such symptoms. the researchers said.
“Children who develop this disease should definitely be evaluated for neurological symptoms and long-term cognitive results,” said Abdel-Mannan. He added that “more studies are needed involving more children and the following children to see how this condition changes over time, and if there are longer-term neurocognitive effects.”
An expert in the United States said the new findings provided valuable insight into a still-mysterious disease.
“This study provides an important piece of the MIS-C puzzle,” said Dr. Michael Grosso, chief medical officer and president of pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York.
“Multisystem inflammatory syndrome appears to overlap with a well-known childhood disease known as Kawasaki disease, but it is also different in many ways and appears to vary in its presentation depending on the age of the child,” a- he declared. “The authors’ finding that central nervous system involvement is common in MIS-C will likely be of great help in alerting clinicians to look for these issues.”
But Grosso added that this research was still in its infancy.
“What we know so far about COVID and MIS-C in children is probably only a small part of what remains to be learned,” he said.
Since the new findings were presented at a medical meeting, they should be considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.
SOURCES: Michael Grosso, MD, chief medical officer and president, pediatrics, Northwell Health Huntington Hospital, Huntington, NY; American Academy of Neurology, press release, April 13, 2021