The objective of this study was to describe the case literature of human coronavirus infections in the nervous system of children, including from SARS-CoV-2, and to provide guidance to pediatric providers for managing the potential long-term effects on neurodevelopment of human coronavirus infections in the nervous system.
Using a structured strategy, the PubMed and Ovid:Embase databases were queried for articles about the clinical presentation and pathophysiology of coronavirus infections in the nervous system of children and young adults, aged 0 to 24 years.
Of 2302 articles reviewed, 31 described SARS-CoV-2 infections in the nervous system of children and 21 described other human coronaviruses: HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-HKU1, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1. Excepting MERS-CoV, we found cases of neurological disease in children from each human coronavirus. Children with non-SARS-CoV-2 infections have suffered acute flaccid paralysis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, encephalitis, and seizures. In addition, cases of ischemic, hemorrhagic, and microvascular strokes have occurred in children with SARS-CoV-2. Patients with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children have suffered encephalitis, stroke, pseudotumor cerebri syndrome, and cytotoxic lesions of deep brain structures. Despite these reports, few articles evaluated the impact of human coronavirus infections on long-term neurodevelopmental domains including cognitive, language, academic, motor, and psychosocial outcomes.
Neurological manifestations of human coronavirus infections can cause severe disease in children. The case literature suggests a critical gap in knowledge of the long-term effects on child neurodevelopment of these infections. As the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues, this gap must be filled to facilitate optimal outcomes in recovering children.
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