NIH funds eight studies to uncover risk factors for MIS-C

Dec. 30, 2020

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded eight research grants to develop approaches for identifying children at high risk for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare and severe after-effect of COVID-19 or exposure to the virus that causes it. Up to $20 million will be provided for the projects over four years, pending the availability of funds, according to a press release.

In most cases, children exposed to or infected with SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will not develop any symptoms or will develop only a mild illness. Some children become seriously ill at the time of infection. Others who initially have no symptoms may go on to develop MIS-C, a severe, sometimes fatal, condition marked by inflammation of one or more organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract.

The NIH awards will fund studies enrolling children with diverse geographic, racial and ethnic backgrounds across 30 U.S. states, Canada, the United Kingdom and South America. The studies will explore how genetic, immune, viral, environmental, and other factors influence the severity of COVID-19 in children and the chances of progression to MIS-C and other long-term complications. The awards come from NIH's Predicting Viral-Associated Inflammatory Disease Severity in Children with Laboratory Diagnostics and Artificial Intelligence (PreVAIL kIds) initiative. These awards are part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program to support new, non-traditional approaches and reimagined uses of existing tools to address gaps in COVID-19 testing and surveillance.

The new awards will evaluate genes, immune system proteins, and other biomarkers, examine how the virus interacts with the body and how the immune system responds to it. These studies will rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning to interpret the data they acquire, to understand risk factors underlying the severity of COVID-19 and MIS-C.

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