May 3, 2023

In The News: Researchers Identify Unique Biomarker Patterns Identifying MIS-C and Severe COVID-19 in Children

Medical Xpress reports on a multicenter study published in Cell Reports Medicine. Researchers in the study have identified specific blood biomarker patterns unique to severe COVID-19 infection and yet others unique to MIS-C. The article projects the findings may pave the way for diagnostic tests in the future.

The longitudinal analysis of samples in the study included 416 blood samples from 70 patients with acute COVID-19, whether mild, moderate, or severe, and 141 patients with MIS-C across three hospitals in the study – Children’s National Hospital, University of California at San Francisco and Emory University/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The samples were collected at certain points of a patient’s progress: at the beginning of illness, initial recovery, one-month after hospitalization and more than three months after illness. Read More

Study investigators used whole blood RNA sequencing, cell-free RNA and cell-free DNA sequencing of blood samples. One of the study’s authors/investigators shared that their analyses of the whole blood RNA revealed multiple inflammatory pathways in both severe COVID-19 and MIS-C and there were specific patterns unique to each that differed from the control and mild COVID groups. This finding was considered useful for pathogenesis and diagnostic testing.

MIS-C patients, compared to COVID-19 patients, showed indications of organ injury through cell-free RNA and cell-free DNA analysis. Those patients demonstrated distinct signatures of cell injury and death, including endothelial cells. Researchers pledge to continue work on a diagnostic that will distinguish MIS-C from other inflammatory conditions affecting children, including Kawasaki Disease.

PIDS board member Roberta DeBiaisi co-authored the study and is quoted. She shared, “Our overall goal is to develop tests that can accurately predict if a child with COVID is likely to develop severe disease, and also accurately distinguish children with MIS-C from children with other causes of fever. These two groups of children can decompensate quickly and require rapid diagnosis and more aggressive treatments right from the beginning…To our knowledge, no one has performed comprehensive analysis of both plasma cell-free RNA and whole blood RNA, as well as cell-free DNA in this setting, which is a powerful approach because it gives us different but complementary types of information.”

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