Although the coronavirus has largely spared the young, some children who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 become seriously ill with inflammation of the heart and blood vessels. In New York, at least 5 children have died and over 100 cases, mostly school-aged children, with this syndrome have been identified, according to the state. Like much about the virus, the link between the coronavirus and the disease is a mystery, and public health officials are eager to understand what makes certain children susceptible. In a May 15, 2020 press release, it was announce that Rockefeller University scientists have partnered with the New York State Department of Health (https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-state-helping-develop-national-criteria-identifying-and-responding) in an effort to learn how the mysterious and frightening illness develops. Using gene sequencing technologies, the new study will search for genetic similarities between patients that may shed light on its pathogenesis. “We may find a genetic clue that could help explain what is driving this severe complication in these children, which can, in turn, inform their clinical care,” says Jean-Laurent Casanova, MD, PhD, Head of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases at The Rockefeller University. As part of an international study (https://www.covidhge.com/) of genetic causes behind severe COVID-19 in young people (https://www.rockefeller.edu/news/28008-gene-hunt-explain-young-healthy-people-die-covid-19/), Dr. Casanova and collaborators have been enrolling these unusual cases since early March, when they were first reported by European doctors. Collaborating with the New York Genome Center (https://www.nygenome.org/) and the state’s health department to investigate the New York cases, as well as cases reported worldwide, will provide Dr. Casanova and his colleagues with a large data set from which to search for key genes.
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