Very little is known about how Covid-19 affects children and what the best treatment is for those who are infected with the virus. Dr. Terry Klassen, CEO and Scientific Director at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM), and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics & Child Health at the University of Manitoba, is part of a group of international pediatric emergency medicine clinicians and researchers who he will be helping lead a new study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to learn more about the affects of this new disease in children.
“This study will involve emergencies around the world from 19 countries and will be looking at which children are at risk, and of those children that get the disease, which ones get severe disease.” says Dr. Klassen. “It’s really important to study this with international collaboration because we need to study collectively in order to have larger numbers to have accurate information.”
“The outbreak of Covid-19 evolves quickly, and protecting the health of Canadians is our priority,” says Patty Hajdu, minister of health. “The additional teams of researchers receiving funding today will help Canada quickly generate the evidence we need to contribute to the global understanding of the Covid-19 illness. Their essential work will contribute to the development of effective vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, and public health responses.”
Information gathered in the study will be shared in real-time with clinicians, researchers and public health agency partners throughout the world including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and the World Health Organization.
Researchers will collect data on 12,500 children brought to emergency departments with respiratory illness at 50 sites in 14 countries. Dr. Stephen Freedman, MD, a paediatric emergency medicine physician with Alberta Health Services and clinician-scientist in the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and O’Brien Institute for Public Health is leading this study out of the University of Calgary.
The Alberta Children’s Hospital is lead site for this effort and data collection is already underway. CHRIM is not a patient participant site for this study.
Researchers will follow a child’s experience for 90 days, recording travel history, exposures and symptoms, and reviewing lab tests, X-rays, treatment and outcomes.
“It seems that adults get sickest seven to 10 days after first seeing a doctor. We need to know whether that’s the same for children so that we can identify at-risk children, provide them with the most beneficial interventions, at the best time to promote their recovery,” says Freedman.
Study participants will include both children who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 and those who test negative. This will allow researchers to make comparisons between those infected by the coronavirus and those with other respiratory illnesses. Researchers will also look at long-term outcomes for those infected with SARS-CoV-2 to determine whether it leads to any chronic conditions, and will also evaluate the impact regional policies have on the health of children.
The study is also supported by the University of Calgary/Alberta Health Service’s Clinical Research Fund, in addition, seed funding to initiate the project was provided by ACHRI.