Hospitals working together to understand COVID-19

The Infectious Diseases and Immunology teams at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead are working closely with Immunologists at Nepean Hospital to better understand the evolution of COVID-19 by analysing the human immune response amongst children and adults. 

The study began in April 2020 and involves engaging with patients and their families through the COVID-19 Outpatient Response Team (CORT) to collect paediatric samples for analysis.

Early evidence suggests that coronavirus infection in children is very uncommon and severe disease is rare, with a majority of COVID-19 infections being adults.

Staff Specialist in Infectious Diseases, Dr Phillip Britton, and his team are working hard to determine exactly why this is the case and have so far come to three interpretations.

“Children may not get infected because of a difference in underlying biology. Simply, they may not have the receptors for this virus at the same level [as adults]. Another reason could be because children get infected and recover much more quickly, they tend not to spread it between each other or to adults.

“Lastly, it is highly likely that the severe disease in adults is arising from a dis-regulated immune response. We don’t know why that is but it appears to be a phenomenon in adults and not in children,” Dr Britton said.

The evidence of low-levels of infection in children is reassuring to Dr Britton’s team but he hopes to continue the study over the next 18 months to establish a more comprehensive analysis of COVID-19.

The teams are currently working on a proposal to take the study internationally in hopes of a broader understanding of samples from various countries.

“Even though disease is infrequent in children, we think understanding disease in children may well be the key to understanding severe disease across all age groups”.

Learn more about...

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  • A special COVID-19 message from Chief Paediatrician Dr Matthew O’Meara

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): What you need to know