A new test has confirmed COVID-19 as trigger for a rare mysterious 'inflammatory syndrome' which left three children hospitalised in Dublin.
The illness has been likened to Kawasaki disease, a rare disorder which causes rashes and a red mouth and eyes.
The illness, which has led to deaths in children in other parts of Europe and the United States, was thought to be linked to Covid-19 but scientists could not prove it.
However, now a test has been developed by experts in Birmingham which has offered evidence confirming COVID-19 to be the cause of a newly emerged multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, who have tested negative for the virus by the PCR test.
This raises the possibility that children who may have had the virus in their system, even if they haven’t been unwell, could be at risk of developing this new condition.
The three children treated in Dublin hospitals for the illness have since recovered.
Reports have emerged in recent weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, of children presenting with symptoms similar to those seen in Kawasaki disease; a rare condition, usually seen in under-fives, that causes a persistently high temperature, rashes and inflammation of the blood vessels.
This new condition has recently been termed Paediatric Inflammatory Multi-System Syndrome - Temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) and to date has affected around 100 children in the UK with further reports of cases across Europe and the United States.
The blood test, which demonstrates the presence of different types of antibodies to the virus, showed that every child had high levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The pattern of antibodies indicated that the infection most likely occurred weeks or even months previously. This means that antibody testing can be used to help diagnose PIMS-TS, even when virus is not directly detectable in the patient.
Dr Alex Richter, lead researcher and Consultant Immunologist at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy said: “By focusing on assay development using academic principles, we have designed a sensitive antibody test that can be used to detect exposure to SARS-CoV-2 infections. The test will be used to understand how many people have suffered from COVID-19 in our communities but we have found another use identifying PIMS-TS in these sick children.”
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