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The Perelman School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that the immune response in children with MIS-C resembled that in adults with severe cases of COVID-19. 

Credit: Avi Singh

A study from the Perelman School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that a better understanding of immune activation in patients with multisystem inflammatory syndrome could help improve treatment of individuals with MIS-C and patients with severe COVID-19.

MIS-C is a condition that causes children to have highly activated immune systems. The study, published in Science Immunology, found that the immune response in children with MIS-C resembled that of adults with severe cases of COVID-19. Researchers found that children with MIS-C have elevated T cells, which play a key role in the control of viral infections.

CHOP and Penn Medicine researchers collected and analyzed blood samples from patients admitted to CHOP with COVID-19 or MIS-C between April and June 2020. Researchers analyzed more than 200 immune parameters and compared this data with samples from adult COVID-19 patients, recovered adult COVID-19 patients, and healthy adults, Penn Medicine News reported.

Laura Vella, attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at CHOP and first author of the study, told Penn Medicine News that the study shows that children with MIS-C are tremendously immune activated, but that this activation subsides once patients begin to improve clinically.

“Our findings provide a broad immunologic foundation for understanding pathogenesis and recovery in this novel SARS-CoV-2-associated inflammatory syndrome, with potential implications for adult disease," Vella told Penn Medicine News.

Researchers proposed three possible drivers of immune pathogenesis in MIS-C, which include continued activation of adaptive immune responses, an additional trigger such as the virus localizing to a new tissue type or a secondary infection, and an autoimmune response, Penn Medicine News reported.

Director of the Penn Medicine Institute for Immunology and senior author of the study E. John Wherry told Penn Medicine News that the study’s findings could lead to advancements in the treatment of COVID-19 in both children and adults. 

"The insights gained by studying those patients may reveal new therapeutic opportunities not only for pediatric COVID-19 patients, but adult COVID-19 patients as well," Wherry told Penn Medicine News.

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