In the best scenario for a child, the child presents with relatively manageable symptoms, recovers completely, and quickly tests negative. As researchers, we wanted to understand why some children had so much worse experiences.
If they do not recover, children with COVID can continue to develop two different disorders. The first is pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), in which patients develop painful inflammation of the skin, eyes, and even internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain. The most fascinating (and confusing) thing about MIS-C is that it never happens in adults, it happens only in children. The second obstacle is Acute respiratory stimulus syndrome (ARDS), life-threatening respiratory failure as a result of severe COVID.
By comparing blood samples from healthy children and children with severe COVID, we identified two sets of proteins that were switched on in children with these dreadful syndromes.
Search for triggers
For the past two years, we have tried to understand how children’s bodies treat COVID and why it is so different from adults. Through our research, we wanted to understand exactly what the virus does to children and how a few children develop MIS-C or ARDS, so we find new ways to diagnose or treat them. It was useful for.
You may have heard about genomics. This is a science and technology that can investigate all the genetic information (genome) of a person at once. In our study, we used proteomics, which allows us to see hundreds of proteins (proteomes) at the same time.
Any changes in the body (such as catching a virus like COVID) can cause changes in the proteome. This helps you to know which system of your body is affected.
Blood samples were taken from healthy children (collected at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne) and compared to blood samples from children from MIS-C or ARDS (collected at the Hipital Necker Enfants Malades in France). We conducted proteomics experiments on the samples and detected hundreds of proteins in each patient.
Comparing the amount of each protein in samples from children with severe COVID to healthy blood samples, we found that there were 85 proteins altered with MIS-C and 52 proteins altered with ARDS.
Blood coagulation and immunity play a role
Listing a set of proteins is only the first step. It is very important for us to know exactly what these proteins do in the body. Understanding the role of each of these proteins will help you begin to understand the underlying biology of the disease.
Proteins that control blood coagulation and the immune system are affected in both MIS-C and ARDS patients, indicating that these systems play important roles in severe COVID. It can also be shown that children with MIS-C affect proteins connected to B cells (which help promote an immune response) and antibodies (which repel foreign invaders in the body). I did. Children with ARDS, on the other hand, affect proteins involved in the breakdown of red blood cells (which transport oxygen around the body).
Our work continues
Fortunately, cases of MIS-C and ARDS are rare. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand how they work. Especially when serious COVID is very dangerous for affected children and scary for families.
By narrowing down the blood proteins that can be involved in severe COVID from hundreds to less than 100, we can focus on developing better diagnostic and therapeutic information.
This study was part of our larger research objective, which was to understand how COVID affects adults and children differently.
Platelets (small blood cells that cause clotting) are activated in adults and children, whereas the thrombi formed in children by COVID have already been shown to be more porous and less stable.
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