LONDON — Doctors say COVID-19 may be responsible for a new illness seen in children around the world. Originally believed to be Kawasaki disease, researchers in England say patients are suffering from a unique inflammatory condition called Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome Temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS). In looking at dozens of patients with the condition, the research team now has a clear picture of its symptoms and clinical markers.
Doctors add that there is evidence many of the young patients were infected with COVID-19 before showing signs of the new condition.The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, notes that 45 of the 58 children with this extremely rare illness also tested positive for COVID-19 or had coronavirus antibodies.
“The new condition, PIMS-TS, is extremely rare but it can make a child very ill, so it’s important to characterize the disease properly so we can provide close monitoring and the best treatment,” says Dr. Elizabeth Whittaker of Imperial College London in a statement.
It’s NOT Kawasaki Disease, Doctors Emphasize
Although the illnesses have similar symptoms, researchers say PIMS-TS has some important differences from Kawasaki disease.
Doctors say the average child suffering from PIMS-TS is around nine years-old, compared to four years-old for Kawasaki patients. Blood tests have also revealed that PIMS-TS patients have more signs of inflammation and strain on the heart.
Kawasaki disease tends to have a more specific effect on a child’s heart, damaging the coronary artery. As a child with this damage grows, the artery does not, which results in less blood reaching the heart.
Along with the inflammation and heart strain, symptoms of PIMS-TS include abdominal pains, diarrhea, and a persistent fever. The study adds that Black and Asian children are being affected by the new illness at a higher rate.
“Our analysis has shown that this is indeed a new condition. Untreated, there is a risk of severe complications in very unwell children,” adds Dr. Julia Kenny.
Researchers are still studying the links between PIMS-TS and COVID-19, but say the condition developing in the middle of a pandemic is no coincidence. With so many of the patients showing signs of having coronavirus, researchers theorize that children are developing PIMS-TS because of an immune system overreaction.
The study adds that PIMS-TS is so distinct and causes so much inflammation, it makes it easier to spot. Doctors are hoping the research on PIMS-TS can help them understand and treat coronavirus patients of all ages.
“The new disease presents in a number of ways and can have serious complications. However, the more we learn the better prepared we are to intervene and prevent worse outcomes,” explains Professor Michael Levin.
Researchers are urging parents to follow their usual instincts when their child is sick and visit a doctor if the symptoms appear serious. The study warns that early detection is key to avoiding any severe complications from PIMS-TS.