COVID-19, the infectious disease which has uprooted our lives, social relationships and work habits, has turned out to be an unmissable opportunity to rethink our collaborative research and strive to drive attention to those who we care most. Children and pregnant women, although important, are not necessarily perceived as a priority population in the COVID-19 public health responses. But why? We know that the number of children infected with COVID-19 is less than in adults, with most being asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Often these children do not undergo testing, and it is unclear to what degree they can transmit the virus to the adult population, who often suffer more severe disease.
The impact of this pandemic on low resource countries is still unclear and vaccine inequality further affects the ability of these countries to face the emergency and save lives. The risk to the most vulnerable population is a huge concern for us.
As a global child health research network, we want to maintain focus on the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on children and pregnant women, without losing sight of the HIV, malaria and TB epidemics and the pressing issue of paediatric drug resistance.
Growing evidence for COVID-19-related paediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome highlights potential differences between how adults and children process the disease, and the need for vigilance and more data, particularly in children with co-morbidities like HIV, who may be at higher risk of severe disease. Moreover, the disease course in children can shed a light on the mechanisms of disease in adults. By focussing our efforts in understanding why COVID-19 seems to affect children differently could help us facilitate the identification of early-treatments and their optimal management.
Despite the difficulties brought on by lockdowns and social distancing measures, we have continued working with our network members; through a series of clinical webinars, we have provided opportunities to discuss COVID-19 and share information across countries. These discussions have highlighted the need for child-specific research from basic science, epidemiology and surveillance, prevention, diagnostic and therapeutic options, as well as relevant social science. Members of the Penta ID Network are carrying out a variety of activities into COVID-19 and promoting it as a key place to share protocols, standardized information and definitions – helping to ensure there is consistent and timely access to information.
Penta has a key role to play in developing randomized controlled trials to address questions around paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, putting surveillance methods into place and developing new proposals that adapt to needs of the paediatric population in this rapidly evolving context. We are developing a research portfolio for COVID-19 funding calls, as well as considering extending existing projects to incorporate data on COVID-19.
We want to keep child health on top of the global research agenda and ensure that we are filling the gaps in knowledge and providing a regional/global overview, rather than replicating ongoing activities. We are continuing to work with WHO and other global collaborators to help build capacity for preparedness around COVID-19 and future emerging infections with potential for harm to maternal and child health.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people and health services around the world, and in light of this rapidly evolving situation, Penta has asked its study teams to implement a number of amendments to Penta sponsored trials with immediate effect. These measures recognise the need for health professionals at each site to prioritise the support to COVID-19 affected patients during this emergency.
Our primary concern is the safety of all study participants and minimising any additional strain on our clinical sites and staff. Therefore, we are working closely with our clinical sites and partner organisations to find ways of doing this, and specific trial recommendations have been developed within each trial team in conjunction with the Sponsor. If you have any questions about what this means for your study then please contact the relevant trial team.
View our collection of paediatric COVID-19 publications from the global scientific community.