November 30, 2022

Ebola may hit children harder and longer than adults, study suggests

A recent study on how Ebola affected children during an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo suggests children may be as susceptible to the disease as adults, despite often presenting with more subtle physical symptoms — vital information for doctors treating pediatric patients with the virulent disease today, and during potential outbreaks in the future.

“Any pediatrician would tell you that children are not little adults. Their bodies respond to infections differently,” says University of Alberta researcher Michael Hawkes, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and senior author on the study.

“We’re right in the middle of an Ebola outbreak in Uganda, and this information is of critical importance to managing the children currently hospitalized with Ebola in Uganda,” he says.

Hawkes notes there is very little data available on the characteristics of Ebolavirus disease in children specifically. The researchers aimed to fill in that knowledge gap using medical data from the Kivu outbreak in Congo, which resulted in nearly 3,500 reported cases from 2018 to 2020.

For the study, researchers conducted a retrospective chart review of pediatric patients along with a comparison group of young adult patients. As Hawkes explains, since Ebolavirus outbreaks typically occur in low-resource settings, there often isn’t much laboratory testing happening. The unique abundance of laboratory data from the DRC outbreak allowed the researchers to extract key findings from those charts and more comprehensively identify how the disease presents in children.

Read the full article on Folio