- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2020

The National Institutes of Health will help fund research projects that look at ways to identify children who are at high risk of a dangerous disease associated with COVID-19.

The health agency will award up to $20 million to successful research proposals over four years, according to an NIH statement released Friday.

While most children infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, experience a mild form of illness, others develop a severe inflammation of organs and tissues that can be fatal.

As of Thursday, 570 cases of the disease, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), have been confirmed and 10 deaths reported in 40 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases are in children 1 to 14 years old, with the average age being 8 years. More than 70% of the reported cases have occurred in children who are Hispanic or non-Hispanic Black.

The NIH funding initiative is to encourage studies of genetic, immune, viral, environmental and other factors that could affect the severity of COVID-19 and the likelihood of developing the syndrome.

“We urgently need methods to distinguish children at high risk for MIS-C from those unlikely to experience major ill effects from the virus, so that we can develop early interventions to improve their outcomes,” said Dr. Diana Bianchi, director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

The project is called Predicting Viral-Associated Inflammatory Disease Severity in Children with Laboratory Diagnostics and Artificial Intelligence (PreVAIL kids) and strives for the creation of “cutting-edge approaches” for understanding what influences the wide variety of conditions in children infected with the coronavirus. Those range from no symptoms at all to fever and cough, diarrhea and abdominal pain and inflammation of the coronary arteries.

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