In a new study, researchers report that detailed analysis from the Italian COVID-19 outbreak shows an increase in cases of rare Kawasaki-like disease in young children.
This finding adds more evidence that COVID-19 may be linked to this dangerous inflammatory disease in children.
Previous research has shown similar cases from New York, USA, and South East England, UK. The experts stress that children remain minimally affected by SARS-CoV-2 infection overall.
The research was conducted by a team at the Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo.
Kawasaki Disease is a rare condition that typically affects children under the age of five. It causes blood vessels to become inflamed and swollen.
The typical symptoms include fever and rash, red eyes, dry or cracked lips or mouth, redness on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and swollen glands.
Typically, around a quarter of children affected experience cardiac complications, but the condition is rarely fatal if treated appropriately in the hospital.
It is not known what triggers the condition but it is thought to be an abnormal immune overreaction to an infection.
In the study, doctors in the Bergamo province of Italy described a series of ten cases of young children with symptoms similar to a rare inflammatory disease called Kawasaki Disease appearing since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only 19 children had been diagnosed with the condition in that area in the five years up to the middle of February 2020, but there were 10 cases between 18 February and 20 April 2020.
The latest reports could represent a 30-fold increase in the number of cases, although researchers caution that it is difficult to draw firm conclusions with such small numbers.
Eight of the 10 children brought to a hospital after 18 February 2020 tested positive for the SARS-coronavirus-2 virus (SARS-CoV-2) in an antibody test.
All of the children in the study survived, but those who became ill during the pandemic displayed more serious symptoms than those diagnosed in the previous five years.
The team says although this complication remains very rare, the study provides further evidence on how the virus may be affecting children.
Parents should follow local medical advice and seek medical attention immediately if their child is unwell. Most children will make a complete recovery if they receive appropriate hospital care.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Lucio Verdoni.
The study is published in The Lancet.
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