Last week, the World Health Organization asked its global network of clinicians to be on the lookout for the rare phenomenon that causes a toxic shock-like inflammatory reaction.
The alert came after British doctors noticed the syndrome, which has symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, occurring in some hospitalized children who had also been infected with Covid-19.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said he was “very concerned” about reports of children suffering from severe symptoms that may be related to COVID-19.
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A report from the South Thames Retrieval Service and published in the medical journal The Lancet on Wednesday found that eight children with the syndrome had also contracted Covid-19, often without showing symptoms.
The study involved an “unprecedented group of eight children” admitted to hospital in April after showing symptoms of toxic shock syndrome.
According to the study, “four [of the] the children had experienced family exposure to the coronavirus, “while the eight were positive for Covid-19 antibodies.
The children, ages 4 to 14, were all treated in intensive care at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
One patient, a 14-year-old boy, died of a stroke while on respiratory assistance, although the others have since been released from hospital.
All had similar symptoms: a persistent fever up to 40 ° C, as well as a variable rash, conjunctivitis, and generalized pain with significant gastrointestinal symptoms.
Study authors Shelley Riphagen, Xabier Gomez, Carmen Gonzalez-Martinez, Nick Wilkinson and Paraskevi Theocharis, suggested that “the clinical picture is a new phenomenon … manifesting itself as a hyperinflammatory syndrome with multiorganic involvement similar to shock syndrome Kawasaki disease. “
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr. Jeremy Rossman, a virologist at the University of Kent, called the study “very concerning”.
However, in response to the Lancet report, Jon Cohen, professor emeritus of infectious diseases at Brighton & Sussex Medical School, said it was still far too early to draw conclusions about the link between the syndrome and Covid-19.
“During the week the report was peer reviewed, the same team saw 12 other patients.
“All of the patients tested negative for (Covid-19), but 10 of the 20 tested positive for antibodies, suggesting that they had been exposed at some point,” said Professor Cohen.
“Naturally [this] raises suspicion of a “new” clinical syndrome in children associated with coronavirus.
“This suspicion is underlined by the fact that six of the eight were of Afro-Caribbean origin, five were boys and seven of the eight were clinically obese.
“These three characteristics align with several putative risk factors for coronavirus infection.
“Nevertheless, some caution is necessary to jump to the conclusion that this is a” Pediatric Covid “. “
In particular, Professor Cohen pointed out that there are a wide variety of factors that can cause toxic shock syndrome.
“The clinical syndrome described, that of atypical Kawasaki shock syndrome, or toxic shock syndrome, can be precipitated by various stimuli and it is conceivable that this cluster was caused not by Covid but following another stimulus infectious or non-infectious, “he said.
“Nevertheless, media reports that followed the initial description of these cases have resulted in the description of similar clusters in several other specialized centers, which attests to the fact that this is indeed a new, but fortunately rare, concerning clinical syndrome. “
Southampton Children’s Hospital consultant Dr. Sanjay Patel also told the Mail: “It is important to keep this in perspective.
“It is a very rare disease and parents should not be alarmed.
“It is extremely unlikely that a child will feel unwell with Covid-19, and it is even more unlikely that a child will become ill with this condition. “