MBRU, Jalila Hospital scientists find rare condition among children with coronavirus

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A view of the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

Many countries have relaxed restrictions over the coronavirus, but a rethink would be called for if one were to think that the worst of the disease was over. 

Earlier this year, a World Health Organisation spokesperson said that it would take a long time before we could see the end of the pandemic.

The variants of the virus are a cause for concern. Last year, Omicron reared its ugly head. But that was not all. The infectious variant had a subvariant called BA.2, which caused surges of the disease.

However, the UAE has been tackling the pandemic on a very firm footing successfully. This has been helped by several factors, including assistance from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) through its vital viral genomic surveillance research.

Now new research by scientists from MBRU and Al Jalila Children’s Hospital has pointed out a rare life-threatening complication of the coronavirus that affects children.

Equipped with genetic and other kinds of data from several Arab children in Dubai and Jordan, the scientists pointed out novel genetic factors that may contribute to the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare condition that may occur in kids with the virus.

The condition can affect several organs including the heart, lungs and kidneys. If it is not diagnosed or treated on time, it could threaten the patient’s existence. It is yet to be ascertained why children contract this complication. 

The study examined 70 children from the Middle East who had COVID-19, of whom 45 met the MIS-C criteria while 25 did not. Patients underwent treatment at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in the UAE and Jordan University Hospital.

The study found that children with MIS-C were more likely to develop destructive immune-related genetic changes compared to children with COVID-19 but without MIS-C. Furthermore, there was a link between genetic findings and breakout of the disease and resistance to treatment.

“This is an important study not only because the findings show comprehensive genetic profiling of children with MIS-C which is essential to characterise the genetic contribution to the disease, but also because patients of an Arab background have long been underrepresented in genetic studies,” said Dr. Walid Abuhammour, Head of the Paediatric Infectious Diseases department at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, and study investigator.

 “The results of this research suggest that rare genetic factors play a role in MIS-C disease and highlight immune-related pathways which might become targets for intervention,” said Ahmad Abou Tayoun, Director of Al Jalila Children’s Genomics Center and Associate Professor of Genetics at MBRU.

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