Advances in Coronavirus Research

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Boston Children’s remains at the forefront of research and innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn about our recent advances.

Coronavirus approaching a cell. Image: AdobeStock

What makes the Delta variant of COVID-19 so contagious?

A structural analysis shows that Delta’s spike protein is especially good at fusion, allowing the virus to enter people’s cells very rapidly.

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Understanding interferon's role in COVID-19 illustration

Unpacking the body’s interferon response to COVID-19

Are interferons helpful or harmful in COVID-19? This detailed study finds that it depends which interferons, when they’re produced, and where.

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Home saliva test that detects Covid-19 variants illustration

Rapid saliva test detects COVID-19 variants, at home or point of care

A low-cost test system, designed by Dr. Rose Lee and collaborators at the Wyss Institute, can give a readout from users’ spit within about an hour. The researchers hope to see it made available commercially.

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Covid-19 nasal swab with different cell types in the nasopharynx illustration

Why do some people get severe COVID-19? The nose may know

The body’s first encounter with SARS-CoV-2 happens in the nose and throat. Responses in this early battleground help determine who will develop severe COVID-19 and who won’t.

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MIS-C steroids IVIG illustration

Children with severe MIS-C do better with IVIG and steroids as initial therapy

Children given the combined treatment up front had better cardiovascular outcomes, finds a large study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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Covid-19 and diabetes link graphic

A coming wave of diabetes? The link with COVID-19

Many patients hospitalized with COVID-19 early in the pandemic developed hyperglycemia, or abnormally high blood sugar levels.

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COVID lungs graphic

What drives severe lung inflammation in COVID-19?

A new study finds that excess Notch4 protein on regulatory T-cells leads to severe lung inflammation in COVID-19.

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COVID and mental health

COVID-19 takes its toll on kids’ mental health

Child hospitalizations for self-harm and suicide attempts stayed steady in 2020, even as hospitalizations for almost all other reasons fell by about half compared with 2017-2019.

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Bleeding and clotting article graphic

New findings show risk of bleeding and clotting after COVID-19

Some patients with congenital heart disease and COVID-19 develop a tendency for blood clots or bleeding issues, even if they had minor COVID-19 symptoms.

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Covid-19 header mutant spike

Sturdier spikes may explain SARS-CoV-2 variants’ faster spread

Why do the new COVID-19 variant strains spread so quickly? Research by Dr. Bing Chen finds that a mutation carried by the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil strains strengthens the coronavirus spike, rendering the virus better able to infect us.

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Mis-C and Covid-19 neurological involvement in kids article photo

Neurological involvement common in kids and teens with acute COVID-19 and MIS-C

About 1 in 5 hospitalized patients had neurologic involvement, mainly fatigue, headache, confusion, trouble walking/crawling, and loss of taste/smell. Of these, 1 in 8 developed serious conditions such as stroke, encephalitis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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Covid-19 internet search graphic

If another pandemic hits, our online ‘footprints’ may help the experts

Looking back at the early days of COVID-19, two Boston Children’s studies demonstrate the potential predictive value of tracking the public’s digital activity (and that of healthcare professionals) in guessing the enemy’s next moves.

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Mis-C or Covid-19 child in a mask image

Is it MIS-C or severe COVID-19? An update on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children

Funded by the CDC, this national study led by Dr. Adrienne Randolph compared and contrasted MIS-C with severe, acute COVID-19 in more than 1,100 children. While the two conditions share some features, there are also important differences.

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IPSC derived airway infected with SARS-CoV-2

How do patients with cystic fibrosis respond to COVID-19? An ‘airway in a dish’ may give answers

Few COVID-19 cases have been noted in patients with cystic fibrosis. Are they protected, or just practicing good social distancing? This study is using an airway lining, engineered from patient-derived cells, to model the effects of SARS-CoV-2 in CF and test possible treatments.

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Placenta protecting baby from Covid-19

How does the placenta protect unborn babies from COVID-19?

Being pregnant is a risk factor for severe COVID-19 in women who are exposed. Yet only 5% of their babies are born with the infection, and nearly all are doing very well. Dr. Elizabeth Taglauer is studying the placenta to see how it may be protecting babies.

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Capturing SARS-CoV-2’s shape-shifting spike protein

Capturing SARS-CoV-2’s shape-shifting spike protein

The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the one our antibodies target, has two forms. New work provides a snapshot of both, with implications for COVID vaccines.

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Interferon lung

Type III interferon in COVID-19: Protective or harmful?

At least two clinical trials are testing type III interferon in COVID-19 to fight viral infection and limit inflammatory damage. But a new study led by Dr. Ivan Zanoni at Boston Children’s warns that if it’s given later in the illness, it could increase susceptibility to bacterial “superinfection."

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disulfiram schematic

Disulfiram inhibits inflammatory gatekeeper protein: Could it be helpful in COVID-19?

Inflammation is the alarm system by which cells first respond to potential danger. But in excess, inflammation can be deadly.

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Making an IMPACC

Making an IMPACC: Examining immune responses in people hospitalized with COVID-19

Boston Children’s Hospital will play key roles in the IMPACC study examining the body's immune response over time in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

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interferons portals

How the new coronavirus gets into respiratory tissue — and may exploit one of our defenses

What makes SARS-CoV-2 such a threat? A study suggests that it may exploit one of our main defenses against viruses to infect three specific cell types.

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National COVID study

Boston Children’s Hospital to lead nationwide study on COVID-19 in children

A nationwide CDC-funded study of COVID-19 in children is asking why children are largely spared, and why a tiny handful become very ill with the virus.

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Where is COVID-19? 

HealthMap: Tracking COVID-19 in real time

The Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program created HealthMap, an online resource and smart phone app that helps track the spread of contagious diseases in real time, including the new coronavirus.