A new study published last week in the journal JAMA Neurology found that COVID-19 may cause neurological symptoms in children.
The study, which was published online on July 1, identified neurological manifestations in four out of 27 COVID-19 patients who were under the age of 18. Those four patients, who were previously healthy, had several neurological symptoms including encephalopathy, which is a broad term to describe brain changes that lead to an altered mental state, muscle weakness and reduced reflexes.
Other symptoms included impaired consciousness, seizures, acute cerebrovascular disease, which refers to a group of conditions that affect blood vessels and blood supply to the brain, and ataxia, which is impaired balance or coordination that usually results from brain, nerve or muscle damage.
All four patients had to be admitted to the intensive care unit, where splenium signal changes were seen in magnetic resonance images of their brains. The splenium is part of the corpus callosum region of the brain; lesions in any part of the corpus callosum can cause neurological disorders.
By the end of the study, all the patients experienced some neurological improvement, with two patients making complete recoveries. While those two patients were discharged from the hospital in under a month, the other two remain wheelchair-bound due to muscle weakness.
“Reversible lesions of the SCC [splenium of the corpus callosum] are rare but have been previously reported in patients with encephalopathies,” the researchers noted in the study.
The authors also called for additional research to determine the association between COVID-19 and neurological symptoms.
“In this case-series study, children with COVID-19 presented with new neurological symptoms involving both the central and peripheral nervous systems and splenial changes on imaging, in the absence of respiratory symptoms. Additional research is needed to assess the association of neurological symptoms with immune-mediated changes among children with COVID-19,” the study concluded.
In May, researchers also warned of an inflammatory disease linked to COVID-19 which has appeared among children.
The disease, which is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), was first reported in late April in Britain. However, since then, additional cases have appeared within the US and abroad.
The condition has been likened to Kawasaki disease, which usually occurs in children younger than 5 years old and causes inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. Kawasaki disease typically causes a fever, as well as a rash, sore throat and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of MIS-C include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, skin color changes, rashes and labored breathing.