Sant Joan de Déu begins four lines of research for the study of COVID-19
Researchers from the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute and the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital are starting four projects to study COVID19 from a microbiological and clinical perspective with regard to inflammatory and maternal-foetal response. To do so, they need to recruit 500 families with children in which at least one adult has tested positive.
Surprisingly, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which is causing thousands of deaths around the world, has a particularly low incidence in the child population despite the fact that this is traditionally one of the groups most at risk of serious respiratory diseases.
In Catalonia, and also in the rest of Spain, the incidence is low, at just 1%. Out of the 24,707 cases that were recorded in Catalonia up till Tuesday, April 7, only 242 were children and young people between 0 and 19 years old. Children are less likely to experience SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus respiratory syndrome, but they also have milder symptoms when they do.
In this context, the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Barcelona Children's Hospital · Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute has launched the Kids Corona platform with the aim of promoting research studies to find out why children are better protected against this virus than the rest of the population. The ultimate goal is to discover what factors protect them and find a treatment that makes it possible to extend the natural protection that children have against COVID-19 to the adult population. Researchers believe children are the key to overcoming this pandemic.
The platform will carry out several studies to find out why it appears that some children are not infected, why some of the children who become ill have mild symptoms and others more severe ones, and how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and the foetus.
Microbiological research line
The researchers will conduct a study to analyse the microbiota of children and compare it with that of adults. The goal is to identify a component that may be present in the former but not in the latter and that can act as a defence against the virus. They will also analyse the microbiota of children treated for COVID-19 to compare it with that of children treated for other respiratory infections.
Clinical research line
Researchers in this line will study the clinical and microbiological evolution of COVID-19 in diagnosed children and compare the clinical characteristics of patients who required hospital treatment owing to the severity of the symptoms with the clinical characteristics of those who were treated as outpatients. The study of all these variables will provide a more accurate characterisation of the behaviour of COVID-19 in children and may offer clues to the most appropriate measures to be taken, once the social distancing measures have been relaxed, to avoid putting the most vulnerable populations at risk.
Inflammatory response research line
The researchers will study whether some biomarkers can help protect the body against coronavirus. Specifically, they will be looking at an enzyme called angiotensin converter or ACE2, which is a receptor directly involved in the entry of the virus into the cell for replication.
They will analyse whether children's immune response to the virus is different to adults'. COVID-19 provokes a notable local and systemic inflammatory response that affects all the organs but mainly the lungs. In collaboration with the Hospital Clínic, researchers from Sant Joan de Déu will study the initial immune response to the virus and the evolution or degree of subsequent inflammation in children and adults.
Maternal-foetal research line
The research will be carried out within the framework of BCNatal in conjunction with the Hospital Clínic and will also count on cases from the Hospital de Sant Pau. Researchers in this line will analyse the factors that determine the degree of risk that COVID-19 represents for pregnant women, and why, when they have the infection, it sometimes occurs asymptomatically. Various factors will be studied and data will be provided to paediatric teams so that they can monitor the children in their charge. One of the main research methodologies will be the study of the microbiota, which the maternal-foetal research team also studies in many other conditions, and which could play a very decisive role in the protection of pregnant women against COVID-19 and its transmission to their children. Existing research platforms will also be used to correlate nutrition patterns, microbiota and infection in pregnant women.
The Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital has launched the #ElsInfantsSónClau campaign to recruit the sample of 500 families needed to carry out all these studies. The hospital is asking for the participation of families with children under the age of 15, in which at least one adult has tested positive with the COVID-19 test.
Families interested in participating in the study only need to log in to this website and fill in the form.
The research team is led by Laia Alsina, Clàudia Fortuny, Vicky Fumadó, Lola Gómez, Iolanda Jordán, Cristina Luanes and Carmen Muñoz-Almagro from the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute · Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital; Eduard Gratacós, director of BCNatal; and Enrique Bassat, paediatrician and ICREA researcher.
Sant Joan de Déu investigates why children are better protected against COVID-19. Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital.
Researchers from the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute and the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital are starting four projects to study COVID19