LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Researchers are investigating whether a mysterious new inflammatory condition which has now been diagnosed in at least three children in Los Angeles is linked to coronavirus.
Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS) is a condition which displays similar symptoms to Kawasaki disease, a very rare condition among young children in which the blood vessels become inflamed and arteries become abnormally dilated.
PIMS was first reported at hospitals in the United Kingdom and New York City. Several children there diagnosed with PIMS also tested positive for carrying coronavirus antibodies in their blood.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) confirmed Friday that three of its patients diagnosed with PIMS have also tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
CHLA said that it saw a significant increase in the number of patients diagnosed with Kawasaki disease in April compared with the same month in previous two years. CHLA doctors are now following up with all the children they treated for Kawasaki disease since the pandemic began to test them for coronavirus antibodies.
“So, none of [these symptoms] is unique,” said Dr. Jeffrey Galpin, an infectious disease specialist. “But we need to understand it uniquely within this disease, and it is certainly worrisome.”
On Monday, the NYC Public Heath Department reported that 15 cases of PIMS had been diagnosed in patients ages 2 to 15 in pediatric ICUs. The cases were among patients who were hospitalized from mid-April to May 1.
According to CHLA, the children have not presented symptoms associated with COVID-19, but all of them tested positive for the virus or the antibodies.
“It (PIMS) describes a new health condition seen in children who have been infected with novel coronavirus, recovered from it and later have an immune response that results in significant levels of inflammation in organ systems and symptoms,” CHLA said in a news release Friday.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, redness in the eyes, enlarged lymph nodes on one side of the neck, high fever, cracked lips or a red tongue that looks like a strawberry, rashes and swollen hands and feet.
Other diseases that have prompted a similar delayed immune response in children include dengue fever, which originated in Vietnam.
“The first time kids in Vietnam got [dengue fever], many of them did fine,” Dr. Galpin said. “The second or third time they got it, they got a hemorrhagic fever, a lot of inflammation…”
Dr. Galpin said PIMS will need to be studied more to understand what exactly is triggering its symptoms.
Treatment is similar to treatment for Kawasaki disease, which involves plasma transfusions to reduce the body’s immune response which is causing the inflammation. The goal is to reduce inflammation and prevent long-term damage to arteries, CHLA said.