Study Finds Options to Predict COVID-19 Severity Risk in Children

These biomarkers may be able to control inflammation in the body once infected with COVID-19 and can help determine the seriousness of the infection, the researchers noted.

The levels of 2 cytokines were higher in patients with severe COVID-19 compared to those without severe infection in a preliminary analysis of saliva samples from 150 children, according to a study abstract from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Cytokines are proteins found in blood and saliva that may be produced in response to an infection. Recent studies in adults have shown that certain cytokines are elevated in the blood of patients with COVID-19 and may predict how severe the illness will be, according to the authors of the current study.

These biomarkers may be able to control inflammation in the body once infected with COVID-19 and can help determine the seriousness of the infection, the researchers noted.

“Using saliva to predict severity of the infection is non-invasive and painless. If proven to be effective saliva may be a game changer in children in whom obtaining blood is both difficult and distressing,” said study author Usha Sethuraman, MD, in a press release. “Additionally, early recognition of the severity of COVID-19 can help clinicians institute timely and appropriate treatment which may help improve outcomes.”

The objective of the study was to identify children at risk for severe disease by integrating these biomarkers and social determinants of health using artificial intelligence. The researchers obtained saliva samples from 400 children 18 years of age and younger with COVID-19 infection who sought emergency medical care at 2 children’s hospitals: Children’s Hospital of Michigan and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

In addition to the cytokine discovery, dozens of microRNA levels were found to be altered, the majority of which were significantly lower in the saliva of children with severe infection. An ongoing analysis will seek to validate the results and confirm the importance of saliva cytokines and microRNAs—combined with social factors, including where the children live—according to the study authors.

REFERENCE

Study seeks to find ways to predict COVID-19 severity risk in children. American Academy of Pediatrics. October 7, 2021. Accessed October 8, 2021. https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2021/study-seeks-to-find-ways-to-predict-covid-19-severity-risk-in-children/