Blood markers may help identify which children develop severe Kawasaki-illness: report

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A group of researchers in England found a group of blood compounds that may predispose some children to more severe cases of Kawasaki-like inflammatory disease, reports say.

Doctors think the rare inflammatory condition is linked to coronavirus. Kawasaki disease causes swelling in medium-sized arteries throughout the body, causing a high, persistent fever, swollen lips and tongue, a rash, and swollen hands and feet, among other signs.

Some pediatric patients experience additional symptoms like shock, may develop heart abnormalities (like coronary aneurysms) and undergo heart failure, Michael Bell, the chief of critical care medicine at Children’s National, told The Washington Post. A 5-year-old girl from the U.K. is stabilizing after she developed heart problems from the illness.

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Researchers at Imperial College London analyzed blood from some of the sickest children, according to a report by The Guardian, and found they had high levels of five compounds that can be measured in routine tests. Two of the compounds, ferritin and C-reactive protein or CRP, are common blood markers for inflammation. The others are linked to heart damage and blood clotting, namely troponin, BNP and so-called “D-dimers”.

“We know that these markers are present in the very sick patients and at lower levels in some patients with normal Kawasaki disease,” Michael Levin, a professor of pediatrics and international child health at Imperial, told The Guardian.

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The researchers believe the blood markers can help doctors decide which children are at risk of progressing to heart failure, moving these patients from district hospitals to specialist centers and, later, intensive care units if necessary, Levin said. Though more research is necessary, if the markers are reliable then a simple blood test could help doctors identify children at-risk for the disease.

Prof. Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, granted the researchers permission to investigate further by recruiting children into a European-funded trial called Diamonds, which was already studying inflammatory disorders, the outlet reported. Doctors in Europe are reportedly collecting blood samples for the study to learn which markers may reveal the severity of the disease.

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“This is a rapidly changing situation and we desperately need to learn how to manage it because we are now seeing quite significant numbers of children being admitted to district hospitals all over the place,” Levin told The Guardian.

Fox News’ Madeline Farber contributed to this report.