Tampa Bay area doctors look at impact of COVID-19 on children with immune deficiencies

childrens research
Posted at 7:37 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 19:37:24-04

Doctors in the Tampa Bay area are trying to get a better understanding on how COVID-19 impacts kids with immune deficiencies.

“He has what’s called XLA. It’s an immune deficiency disorder where his body does not produce antibodies basically,” said Jessica Collier.

Navigating the pandemic hasn’t been easy for most people, made even more difficult for those who are immunodeficient, like Collier’s two-year-old son, Easton. The pandemic brought on a period of unknowns, especially when her son tested positive for COVID-19.

“We worried about Easton because his disease that he has, he does not have the ability to produce antibodies on his own,” said Collier. “He’s doing great. He did great after the treatment. I would say he definitely recovered and bounced back really well.”

“We’re looking at effectively all the patients with immune system problems, all the kids with an issue with their immune system, to see if there’s a difference in how they handle the virus,” said Dr. Ann Marie Szymanski, a pediatric rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in collaboration with USF are trying to get a grasp on COVID-19’s impact on kids like Easton.

“We are studying patients who come through our immunology and rheumatology clinics to determine their antibody levels to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and we’re also looking to see how effective those antibodies are at neutralizing the virus,” said Szymanski.

Dr. Szymanski, the study’s principal investigator, explains on top of the virus’s impact, they’ll also look at the vaccine, too.

“The vaccine became available to those 12 and older, so those patients that have been vaccinated in particular, we’re also interested and we’re recording whether they’ve been vaccinated or not and looking to see if they’ve mounted antibodies to the vaccine and also how durable those antibodies are and how strong they are in terms of neutralization," said Szymanski.

Dr. Szymanski explains there’s not a lot of information on this for kids, instead more data for adults, saying they have to borrow from much of that, while also noting the difficulty of the pandemic on some families.

“It’s been I think psychologically difficult for everybody the past two years, but even more so when you lay on top of that a child that has a problem with the immune system and whether COVID will totally conquer their body or not, so we’re trying to see if we can give any reassurance or at least some more credible guidance that’s related to data that we can provide families with,” said Szymanski.

Collier says it’s invaluable to have resources, sharing how this study could help some families and their kids.

“It doesn’t take all the worry off of you, but it helps you to come up with a game plan of what you can do if your child was to come down with COVID,” said Collier.