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COVID-19 may be causing long-term symptoms in children, according to a preprint posted on MedArxiv. The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, provides preliminary evidence that children can suffer from long-COVID as can adults, with symptoms lasting for months after their initial SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Until now, there have been few data on long-COVID in children, although persistent symptoms among adults have been increasingly reported since the pandemic started. One large cohort study showed that 76% of adults reported at least one persistent symptom 6 months after SARS-CoV-2 infection.
To learn more about long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children, researchers surveyed caregivers of 129 patients in Rome, Italy. The patients were younger than 18 years and had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The researchers used a questionnaire developed by the ISARIC Global COVID-19 follow-up working group ― an international group of researchers whose initial studies concerned adult long-COVID. The questionnaire asks about respiratory symptoms, fatigue, nasal congestion, muscle pain, and other symptoms.
More than 50% of the children had at least one symptom that persisted 4 months or longer after their diagnosis, and nearly a quarter (22.5%) reported three or more such symptoms. Although patients who were symptomatic or were hospitalized during acute infection were more likely to report persistent problems, some children who were asymptomatic during the acute phase of COVID also described having symptoms several months later. Of the patients who experienced long-COVID, 42% reported that their extended symptoms interfered with everyday life.
Lead author Danio Buonsenso, MD, told Medscape Medical News that he had not expected to find so many patients experiencing long-COVID in the first cohort he examined. Buonsenso is a pediatric infectious disease physician at the same institution in Rome that first reported on adult long-COVID. During the summer, after reading his colleagues