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COVID-19 Infection Severe And Critical In Children, Adolescents With Cancer: Study

“The results clearly and definitively show that children with cancer fare worse with COVID-19 than children without cancer,” said study's corresponding author.

COVID-19 infections


Children with cancer are immunocompromised. While in general, kids are at minimal risk of contracting the severe SARS-CoV-2 infection than adults, a new study has found that children with cancer go on to develop an extremely severe coronavirus disease that results in disrupted treatment. 

A study published on Thursday in The Lancet Oncology that aimed to analyse in detail the clinical course and outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection found that children and adolescents with cancer, go on to develop critical COVID-19 illness, which occurs in one-fifth of the patients; while deaths occurred in a higher proportion than reported. Scientists from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the International Society of Paediatric Oncology found that 20 per cent of kids with cancer who contract SARS-CoV-2 develop severe or perhaps life-threatening infections. 

These COVID-19 patients, that are basically children with co-morbidity, account for 1-6 per cent of the severe coronavirus infections. Findings were compiled by the Global Registry of COVID-19 in Childhood Cancer, which was launched by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP). Gathered data on the pandemic’s effect on the cancerous children indicated that in addition to more critical COVID-19 symptoms, pediatric cancer patients were more likely to undergo hospital admissions and die. The ratio was more significant for kids belonging to the low- and middle-income countries “where critical disease from COVID-19 was nearly 6 times higher,” the study stated. 

“The results clearly and definitively show that children with cancer fare worse with COVID-19 than children without cancer,” said corresponding author Sheena Mukkada, M.D., St. Jude Departments of Global Pediatric Medicine and Infectious Diseases. “This global collaboration helps clinicians make evidence-based decisions about prevention and treatment, which, unfortunately, remain relevant as the pandemic continues.”

17% of immunocompromised kids require hospitalization

Scientists studied the data collected for 1,500 children from over 131 hospitals in 45 countries between April 15, 2020, and February 1, 2021. The findings were analyzed prior to the countries declaring vaccination for the children as well the emergence of the COVID-19 variants including delta. The study suggested that “65 per cent of patients were hospitalized and 17 per cent required hospital admission or transfer to a higher level of care due to worsening infection, nearly 4 per cent patients died due to COVID-19, compared to 0.01-0.7 per cent mortality reported among general pediatric patients.” The cancer therapy had to be modified for nearly 56 per cent of the COVID-19 kid patients. For 45 per cent, the chemotherapy had to be stalled as the infection flared. 

“By working together to create this global registry, we have enabled hospitals around the world to rapidly share and learn how COVID-19 is affecting children with cancer,” said the paper’s co-author, Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones, SIOP president. “The results are reassuring that many children can continue their cancer treatment safely, but they also highlight important clinical features that may predict a more severe clinical course and the need for greater vigilance for some patients.”

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