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Paediatric research on impact of COVID-19 on children

Paediatric research on impact of COVID-19 on childrenPaediatric research on impact of COVID-19 on children

Mon, 11/05/2020 - 14:06

Paediatric research on impact of COVID-19 on children

Registration of COVID-19 samples to be tested by RT-PCR.

Hospital Sant Joan de Déu has launched the #ElsInfantsSónClau campaign, which will study 500 families with children in which at least one adult has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that is causing thousands of deaths worldwide, has a surprisingly low incidence in children, despite them being a group that is traditionally at highest risk of suffering from serious respiratory diseases.

When the pandemic started in China, only 2% of people who became ill with COVID-19 were under the age of 19. In Catalonia, and across the rest of Spain, the incidence is even lower, at 1%. As of April the 7th, only 242 out of the 24,707 cases recorded in Catalonia are of children and young people aged under 19. Even when children suffer from coronavirus respiratory failure, they have milder symptoms. In Spain, only 0.6% of affected children have had to be hospitalized to date and there has been no recorded death.

Research platform

To find out why children are more protected against this virus compared to the rest of the population, Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona has launched the Kids Corona platform. The objective is to uncover the factors that protect children from COVID-19 and find out if this can be extended to the adult population. Researchers believe that children are the key to overcoming this pandemic.

The role of children in transmitting the disease is currently unknown. The research studies that will be carried out in Sant Joan de Déu aim to clarify this aspect and answer questions that currently concern us all. Are children transmitting the coronavirus to the population at large? The research platform will also investigate how pregnant women become infected and what factors favour or stop them catching it.

Lines of investigation

Kids Corona will work across four research lines: microbiology, clinical research, inflammatory response and maternal-fetal.

The CRG collaborates with the hospital to further microbiological and maternal-fetal research, through its Biomolecular, Genomics and Bioinformatics Screening Units, led by Carlo Carolis, Jochen Hecht and Julia Ponomarenko, respectively.

Microbiological research line. The researchers have observed that most of the children who have had to attend hospital for COVID-19 are newborns or are over 6 years old. Children aged between 1 and 5 do not seem to get the disease. Researchers suspect that children may be protected by their nasopharyngeal microbiota, i.e the microorganisms that live in the nasopharynx and, specifically, to some bacterial species. Children have a very rich and diverse microbiota of bacterial species that is lost with age.

The researchers want to carry out a study that allows analyzing the microbiota of children and comparing it with that of adults, looking for an element that is present in the former, but not in the latter, which may protect against the virus. They will also analyze the microbiota of children with COVID-19 and compare it with that of children who have had other respiratory infections.

Maternal-fetal research line. The researchers of this line - which will be done within the framework of BCNatal together with the Hospital Clínic and which will include cases from the Hospital de Sant Pau - will analyze what factors determine the risk of COVID-19 in pregnant women and whether it presents itself without symptoms.

Various factors will be studied and data will be provided to the paediatric groups so that they can monitor children. One of the main research methodologies will be the study of microbiota, which the research group have previously studied in many other conditions and which they believe could have a decisive role in the protection of pregnant women against COVID-19 and in transmission to their child. Existing research platforms will also be used to correlate nutrition patterns, microbiota, and infection patterns in pregnant women.

This knowledge will be provide much-needed information for pregnant women, help understand the unknowns of the disease and assess this group’s vulnerability. The research will also provide key knowledge to understand the contagion in children.

The CRG will contribute to these two lines of research through carrying out RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 from nasopharyngeal samples taken from 500 families and 1,000 pregnant women. The tests will be carried out in the CRG Biomolecular and Genomic Screening Units. These two units, together with the Bioinformatics Unit, will also be involved in the study of the microbiota from the 500 families participating in the microbiological research line and of the positive-testing pregnant women belonging to the maternal research line. To study the microbiota, the Molecular Screening Unit will extract bacterial DNA from the samples and the Genomic Unit will sequence it. With this data, the Bioinformatics Unit will perform the bioinformatics analysis that will allow researchers to establish the correlations mentioned above.

To help discover if adults can be protected in the same way that children are, it is possible to join the project with a donation HERE.

Related news published by the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital (04/09/2020): Sant Joan de Déu investigates why children are more protected for COVID-19