Calgary researcher to lead global study on COVID-19 treatment for children

CALGARY — While children appear to be better at fighting off the novel coronavirus than adults, little is known about how COVID-19 affects them and the best treatment for kids who are infected, says a Calgary researcher who hopes to fill in some of those blanks with a new global study spearheaded at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Stephen Freedman, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and a clinician-scientist in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine was already working with an international group of scientists on pediatric pneumonia.

When COVID-19 hit the headlines, he decided to switch gears and focus on the novel respiratory disease.

“We realized this was going to be an issue so I quickly put together a proposal to lead this international collaboration,” Freedman said in an interview with The Canadian Press Tuesday.

Freedman said the most interesting thing is that children, 18 and under, make up only five per cent of the coronavirus cases worldwide and the effects appear to be relatively benign compared to adults.

“Children respond very differently. Generally so far the infection seems to have been much more mild,” he said.

“The most important goal is to identify which children are most likely to have adverse outcomes to coronavirus infection. Can we identify them early on, can we predict them and can we identify therapies that are child and youth specific?”

Freedman said there are a lot of theories about why COVID-19 seems to have less effect on kids but it could be that their continuous upper respiratory infections each winter, which parents are familiar with, might be providing a level of immunity.

“Children perhaps have some immunity right now because they are continuously infected by viruses including other coronaviruses, so perhaps their immune systems are more prepared and have an immunity to other coronaviruses,” Freedman said.

Freedman points out health officials have been dealing with different types of coronaviruses for years including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), as well as others that are less deadly.

“There are other cornaviruses that are routine, run of the mill, you could not separate it from another virus infection in your typical North American infant who goes to daycare, for example.”

Freedman says information gathered in the study will be shared in real-time with clinicians, researchers and public health agency partners throughout the world over the next few months 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. The Alberta Children’s Hospital is the lead site and data collection is already underway.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2020.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

81 homeless camps removed from Red Deer parks so far this year

Parks workers are catching up after a six-week COVID-19-related lull

Salons are busy: Red Deerians rushing to get their hair done

As Alberta sheds COVID-19 restrictions, many Red Deerians are looking for a… Continue reading

Outgoing Red Deer Food Bank director recalls two decades of providing for a basic human need

Fred Scaife experienced many uplifting moments, along with daily stress

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Drug trafficking charges laid in central Alberta investigation

Investigation included Ponoka, Brazeau, Leduc counties

Political parties don’t need COVID cash

The least essential service throughout the pandemic has been politics — which… Continue reading

Whitecaps ‘keeper Maxime Crepeau dreaming about being back on the soccer pitch

It’s been 80 days since the Vancouver Whitecaps last saw action, so… Continue reading

David Marsden: Jason Kenney is all hat, no cattle

There are few character failings more unappealing than those of people who… Continue reading

Montreal Impact allowed to train individually at Centre Nutrilait

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact are giving their first-team players access to… Continue reading

Black Crowes, the Trews among artists in Budweiser Stage at Home TV concerts

TORONTO — Live Nation Canada and Budweiser are launching a weekly, one-hour… Continue reading

Most Read