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Initially, it seemed as though COVID-19 did not affect children as severely as it did adults. While it is true that a smaller percentage of children are hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to adults, some children do become seriously ill and experience symptoms lasting up to several months. It is becoming increasingly important to understand the potential long-term impact of COVID-19—a condition called long COVID and also Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).
Now, a team of experts at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has received $8.3 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a national study called RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery). Experts at dozens of sites across the United States will gather data to better understand the course of the disease and determine the most effective ways to treat the consequences of COVID-19 in children.
“We estimate that 5 to 15% of youth infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop long COVID. Given the population of Los Angeles, that is a lot of young people who will be affected,” said David Warburton, MD, Site Principal Investigator at CHLA. “With this study, our objective is to learn more about the progression of this condition, how to treat it and most importantly, how to prevent it.”
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is one of the few hospitals in California with a clinical program dedicated to long COVID recovery care in children and young adults.
The study will focus on two other post-COVID/PASC conditions—Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and COVID vaccine-associated myocarditis. A total of 800 individuals with MIS-C and 200 participants with COVID vaccine-associated myocarditis will be enrolled nationally.
“Although MIS-C is rare, the consequences can be devastating,” says Sindhu Mohandas, MD, an infectious disease expert at CHLA and co-Principal Investigator on the study. “At CHLA, we have treated half of all children diagnosed with MIS-C in Los Angeles, so we are well positioned to study the best ways to treat long COVID/PASC in a diverse population.”
Because the symptoms of long COVID are similar to those of other conditions, it can go undiagnosed. Parents may conclude that their child is lethargic or finding it difficult to focus because of the time spent away from school and friends during the shutdown.
“Our goal is to identify children and young adults who may have this condition and help them toward recovery,” said John Wood, MD, PhD, a pediatric cardiologist at CHLA and co-Principal Investigator on the study. “If your child or a child you know is still experiencing symptoms that interfere with daily life, talk to your pediatrician about being evaluated for long COVID and consider participating in the study.”