New COVID-19 research to understand impacts on children

As hospitals, research institutes and healthcare centres around the world race against the clock to support the public during COVID-19, teams at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) are leading the way in understanding the implications on children thanks to your support.

Researchers from the RCH, University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute are collaborating with teams globally to understand why children are less likely to display signs of COVID-19, and the key is in their blood. This study has been funded by the wonderful bequest of Beryl Sparks. Beryl nursed and then volunteered at the RCH, and has created a legacy beyond her lifetime with her gift for haematology research. Through the Harmonising Age Pathology Parameters in Kids (HAPPI Kids) studies, led by Professor Paul Monagle, RCH campus researchers are able to utilise an extensive database of age-specific ‘normal’ references for blood samples in children and young people. These base references are essential to understanding the impacts of COVID-19 for paediatric cases.

“As COVID-19 infection numbers continue to rise globally, we wanted to understand why initial data has shown that children with COVID-19 are at lower risk of infection and often show mild or no symptoms compared to adults. There have been reports of a small number of children in Europe, the UK and the USA who have COVID-19 and exhibit multi-system inflammatory conditions, which we believe could be linked to blood cells and vessels,” said Professor Paul Monagle.

Although COVID-19 is recognised as a respiratory virus, Paul and his team at the RCH campus are now studying its impact on the cardiovascular system to understand why children are protected from severe infection but may exhibit these inflammatory symptoms.

“The data from the HAPPI Kids studies are vital to understanding the impact of COVID-19 in children as we need accurate reference points for comparison,” said Paul.

This incredible database of age-specific references is made possible thanks to the generous support of RCH1000, a group of donors committed to funding research at the RCH.

Data from the HAPPI Kids studies is currently being utilised to:

  • Compare blood samples of children infected with COVID-19
  • Compare blood plasma to both high-risk and healthy adults to test reactions to COVID-19 infections in a test tube

Significantly, this COVID-19 research involves extensive collaboration across Melbourne and internationally, including with hospitals in France and the UK. The results from these studies will be extremely significant in helping to understand the impact of COVID-19 on blood clotting both in children and adults right around the world.  This will then help clinicians to decipher which treatments to use to combat symptoms of COVID-19.