Immune-mediated lung injury and systemic hyperinflammation are characteristic of severe and critical coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in adults. Although the majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections in pediatric populations result in minimal or mild COVID-19 in the acute phase of infection, a small subset of children develop severe and even critical disease in this phase with concomitant inflammation that may benefit from immunomodulation. Therefore, guidance is needed regarding immunomodulatory therapies in the setting of acute pediatric COVID-19. This document does not provide guidance regarding the recently emergent multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
A multidisciplinary panel of pediatric subspecialty physicians and pharmacists with expertise in infectious diseases, rheumatology, hematology/oncology, and critical care medicine was convened. Guidance statements were developed based on best available evidence and expert opinion.
The panel devised a framework for considering the use of immunomodulatory therapy based on an assessment of clinical disease severity and degree of multi-organ involvement combined with evidence of hyperinflammation. Additionally, the known rationale for consideration of each immunomodulatory approach and the associated risks and benefits was summarized.
Immunomodulatory therapy is not recommended for the majority of pediatric patients, who typically develop mild or moderate COVID-19. For children with severe or critical illness, the use of immunomodulatory agents may be beneficial. The risks and benefits of such therapies are variable and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with input from appropriate specialty services. When available, the panel strongly favors immunomodulatory agent use within the context of clinical trials. The framework presented herein offers an approach to decision-making regarding immunomodulatory therapy for severe or critical pediatric COVID-19 and is informed by currently available data, while awaiting results of placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials.
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