NEW YORK — Local medical experts said Wednesday they’ve made a new, groundbreaking discovery when it comes to the inflammatory illness many kids suffered following a COVID-19 diagnosis, determining their bodies may have continued to fight even after recovering from the virus.
While research on COVID-19 and the delta variant’s long-term effects on children remains ongoing, local researchers in New York say they made a breakthrough in understanding the concerning complication many children suffered from as the virus made its way through the nation.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 2,600 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) have been reported, causing fever, pain, and inflammation of multiple organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal tract.
But researchers at Mount Sinai who recently studied eight children all suffering from MIS-C said they’ve found an important clue in determining how their patients’ cells reacted.
“We found this specific network of genes that’s expressed at the lower level in children with MIS-C that pointed us toward these cells of the immune system whose role is to kill infected cells,” Dr. Noam Beckmann of Mount Sinai said.
But researchers say after those cells within the immune system kill COVID-19, they can keep going.
“[They] never stopped working. The problem is not that it doesn’t work, the problem is that it keeps working when they should stop,” Beckmann said.
The findings have major potential to help with future treatments, Beckmann said.
Mount Sinai’s work on MIS-C represents the first gene-expression study from the hospital’s COVID-19 Biobank. Created through the work of a volunteer team of more than 100 nurses, doctors and researchers, the repository serves as the backbone of Mount Sinai’s rapidly expanding COVID-19 research.
The study was published Wednesday in “Nature Communications.”
It’s known that vaccines provided protection against coronavirus, but children under the age of 12 aren’t eligible, and the age group is seeing a spike in cases nationwide.
Doctors on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 say more children are becoming critically ill from the virus than at any other time during the pandemic, with the surge of the delta variant likely to blame.
For kids ineligible to be vaccinated, city health officials say masking is the best defense against COVID-19 for now.
Though children are less likely to suffer serious health effects as compared with the elderly, the latest COVID wave hammering Florida and other parts of the southern U.S. is also fueling an “enormous increase” in cases among children, many of whom are sicker than doctors have seen previously, the chief medical officer at one of the state’s top children’s hospitals said Wednesday. Leaders of other medical systems in virus hotspots like Louisiana say a similar situation is occurring in their pediatric hospitals.
The surge in coronavirus cases comes just as students return to classrooms.
Correction: The spelling of the doctor’s name has been updated.