Can a Greater Understanding of COVID-19 in Children Reduce the Overall Impact of the Coronavirus?

More than 50 research studies to understand, detect, treat and prevent the coronavirus in children and families have launched at Seattle Children’s since the virus emerged in late 2019. This is the first post in a new weekly series called “Quest(ion) for Discovery” highlighting this research in progress and the search for answers that could result in major scientific breakthroughs that save lives and slow the spread of the virus.

As the senior vice president and chief academic officer at Seattle Children’s, Dr. Leslie R. Walker-Harding helps set the vision for Seattle Children’s Research Institute, one of the top five pediatric research programs in the country. Here she addresses the question: Can a greater understanding of COVID-19 in children reduce the overall impact of the coronavirus?

Walker-Harding: We’ve already witnessed numerous examples of Seattle Children’s investigators contributing to some of the earliest coronavirus research efforts – from solving the structure of the virus proteins to testing the first vaccine in humans and launching a surveillance network in partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County.

There remains so much we don’t yet know about COVID-19 and we are rallying to find the missing pieces of the mosaic. Our researchers are working collaboratively across scientific disciplines to examine the coronavirus from all angles so we can understand why it affects children differently than other populations.

Seattle Children’s broad expertise in epidemiology, diagnostics, immunology, infectious disease, vaccine development and mental health has enabled us to make major breakthroughs in areas such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, infectious disease and autoimmune disorders. Using the same approach, our comprehensive pediatric research program is thoroughly equipped to address the burden COVID-19 presents to children and families.

What we learn will help reduce the overall impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic. For example, studying children’s immunological response to the coronavirus may reveal what causes severe disease in some adults. This knowledge can provide the blueprint needed to engineer a vaccine and develop better treatment pathways.

Insights will also allow us to prepare for a potential repeat outbreak of COVID-19 or another novel respiratory virus that targets children. It’s critical we make swift progress now to protect our children, families and other vulnerable populations from future pandemics.

Make a donation to Seattle Children’s to advance promising research efforts surrounding COVID-19 – so our findings can best serve our patients, their families, our community and the world. Your support will help expedite vaccine trials and analysis to determine if a vaccine will be effective, as well as learn from the challenges of COVID-19 and develop systems and plans for the future.