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National Geographic: ‘Super Antigens’ Tied to Mysterious COVID-19 Syndrome in Children

National Geographic recently interviewed Moshe Arditi, MD, professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai, about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a serious condition that can affect some younger COVID-19 patients and may be linked to a similar condition in adults.

Early signs of multisystem inflammatory syndrome include fever, rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Although the condition is rare, it can worsen quickly and sometimes be fatal.

When doctors first encountered these symptoms in young patients, they suspected Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation in the blood vessels of children. Arditi, an expert on Kawasaki disease, told National Geographic there are clear differences between the two illnesses.

"Most MIS-C patients are older. The median age of the afflicted is 9, while Kawasaki patients are generally under 2," Arditi said. "They also carry higher levels of biomarkers – proteins found in blood tests – that predict inflammation levels, and they often experience severe abdominal pain to the point that the [cases] are confused with appendicitis."

Arditi and a team of researchers found that the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, has a unique feature not seen in other known coronaviruses. A fragment of the virus shaped like a spike resembles bacterial toxins known as super antigens, proteins that generate excessive reaction from the immune system, according to National Geographic.

The spike fragments may explain why multisystem inflammatory syndrome can look similar to blood infections, such as sepsis and bacterial toxic shock syndrome, Arditi told the magazine.

"We finally found the viral spike segment that may induce all those immune responses" – not only in multisystem inflammatory syndrome but possibly in adult COVID-19 cases, Arditi said.

Click here to read the complete article from National Geographic.