Research in the times of COVID-19: Daniele Donà

24 Jun, 2021

The global health crisis of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is changing the world. In the Veneto Region in Italy, an exponential spread of patients affected by COVID-19 has been observed since 21st February 2000, the day of the first COVID-19 positive adult admitted to the University Hospital of Padua.

This impetuous pandemic infection put a tremendous amount of stress on many hospitals interfering with ordinary medical practice. Moreover, all the research activities were slowed down considerably with a sudden change in priorities regarding time and funding.

Since February 2020, we in the Paediatric Infectious Diseases team have been immediately involved in implementing infection prevention and control (IPC) strategies, including the Paediatric Department’s reorganization to contain the in-hospital viral spread. These actions have been taken to ensure prompt recognition of children suspected or confirmed for SARS-CoV-2 infection and to guarantee both urgent care to COVID-19 infected children and the safety of all healthcare workers and other non-infected children of the Paediatric Department of the University Hospital of Padua.

This protocol resulted from all our daily efforts to merge scientific evidence available at the time of epidemic onset in the Veneto Region with clinical and organizational issues faced within the first month of coexistence with COVID-19.

Alongside daily clinical care of COVID-19 positive children, this was a unique opportunity for mutual support to carry out science in this new situation. Rapid sharing of information between Penta
ID Network centres became essential to better understand the infection pattern and management in children.

Furthermore, the strengthened collaboration with different laboratories with immunological analysis led us to implement a COVID-19 family cluster dedicated clinic. Given the growing increase in COVID-19 cases, it is important to analyse the prevalence of the SARS-CoV-2 antibody in previously infected patients and in the wider population, in

order to understand the evolution of the immunologic response, to understand if individuals infected during the first wave will be protected upon re-exposure.

The COVID-19 follow-up clinic was first established at the end of March 2020, aiming to evaluate the medium and long-term impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection in family clusters, including children. Children and their relatives were sent to the clinic 4-8 weeks after the end of the isolation period for all family members, through different routes; after being hospitalized and recovered by the Paediatric COVID-19 Unit of our Hospital and/or after being evaluated in our COVID-19 dedicated Emergency Room or after receiving a home- based evaluation, provided by their family paediatricians.


Daniele Donà is a researcher and paediatric infectious diseases consultant at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of Padova – Italy