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NIH Funds Eight Studies of Pediatric COVID-19 Inflammatory Syndrome

NEW YORK – The National Institutes of Health announced on Monday that it has awarded eight research grants to support early diagnosis of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a severe illness related to COVID-19 infection.

Typically, pediatric SARS-CoV-2 infection is mild, but in rare cases it can result in inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal tract.

The new awards allow researchers to continue efforts to develop methods to rapidly diagnose MIS-C and identify children at risk for serious effects of COVID-19.

The awardees are Jane Burns of the University of California, San Diego; Cedric Manlhiot of Johns Hopkins University; Ananth Annapragada of Baylor College of Medicine; Audrey Odom John of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Usha Sethuraman of Central Michigan University; Juan Salazar of Connecticut Children's Medical Center; Charles Chiu of the University of California, San Francisco; and Lawrence Kleinman of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The awards are overseen by the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and an initiative called the Predicting Viral-Associated Inflammatory Disease Severity in Children with Laboratory Diagnostics and Artificial Intelligence (PreVAIL kIds). They are also part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Radical (RADx-rad) program to support new approaches to COVID-19 testing.

The awards are a second tranche of funding for MIS-C following grants issued in 2020 that involved more than 7,400 research participants in four countries, the NIH noted in a statement.

The previous awards yielded a laboratory technique for detecting immune cells associated with MIS-C, databases that help diagnose children at risk for MIS-C and severe COVID-19 based on blood proteins and genetic biomarkers, and a database that can distinguish between MIS-C, Kawasaki disease, and fever-causing viral and bacterial infections. These prototype methods and techniques can potentially be used in clinics, emergency departments, and for hospital inpatients, NIH said.