Multi-country African research reports high rates of COVID-19-related deaths among hospitalized children and adolescents

Newswise – African children and adolescents hospitalized with COVID-19 are experiencing much higher death rates than Europeans or North Americans of the same age, according to a recently published study by researchers at the Institute of Human Virology (IHV ) from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN). Both organizations are members of the Global Virus Network (GVN).

The study, titled “Evaluation of Clinical Outcomes in Children and Adolescents Hospitalized with COVID-19 in Six Sub-Saharan African Countries,” was conducted by a collaboration under AFREhealth (the African Forum for Research and Education in health), a consortium of interdisciplinary health personnel across Africa. The research was published on January 19 in JAMA Pediatricsthe highest ranked pediatric journal in the world.

“This study provides important insights into COVID-19 in African children that were not previously available at this scale. We now have evidence from multiple countries to show that African children are also suffering from severe COVID-19; they suffer from a multisystem inflammatory syndrome; some require intensive care; some are also dying, and at much higher rates than outside of Africa,” said Nadia Sam-Agudu, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at UMSOM’s Institute of Human Virology and senior technical advisor for pediatric and adolescent HIV at the Institute of Human Virology in Nigeria. Dr. Sam-Agudu is co-first author with lead researcher Dr. Jean Nachega from the University of Pittsburgh and Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa.

The AFREhealth study collected data from 25 health facilities in Nigeria, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. The study included 469 African children and adolescents aged three months to 19 years hospitalized with COVID-19 between March and December 2020. The team reported a high overall mortality rate of 8.3%, compared to 1% or less for Europe and North America. Additionally, African children under one year of age and with pre-existing non-communicable diseases were more likely to have poorer outcomes, such as needing intensive care and death.

Eighteen participants had suspected or confirmed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (also known as MIS-C), and four of those children died.

Dr Sam-Agudu, who led the West Africa team for the study, urged health authorities and policy makers in Nigeria and other African countries to act on the results of the study. the study “to protect children by expanding vaccine approvals and purchases specifically for children, as variants that have emerged since our study ended have either caused more severe disease and/or more cases overall. We cannot leave children behind in the pandemic response.”

Dr. Sam-Agudu recently received a 2022 award from Dr. Thomas Hall-Dr. Nelson Sewankambo Mid-Career Leadership Award from the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. The award recognizes outstanding individuals for their achievements and commitment to contributing to the advancement of global health around the world.

According to Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at UMSOM’s Institute of Human Virology and IHVN Director General Patrick Dakum, MBBS, MPH, “These data from Dr. Sam-Agudu and collaborators from “AFREhealth is placing science from Nigeria and the rest of Africa clearly on the map for pandemic-responsive research, especially for young populations. We will continually work to contribute to research findings in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa. the West and beyond,” he said.

Alash’le Abimiku, PhD, Professor of Medicine at the Institute of Human Virology at UMSOM and Executive Director of the International Research Center of Excellence at the Institute of Human Virology in Nigeria, also noted that “pediatric findings This collaboration’s high COVID-19 impact research underscores the value of sustained investments in strong research institutions, collaborations and leadership in Nigeria and across Africa. We can generate rigorous local data to guide local, regional and international health policies and practices.

The Director General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said, “The results of the AFREhealth study show that COVID-19 affects children and can have serious consequences. Thus, we need to seriously consider children in age-disaggregated COVID-19 disease surveillance and reporting, and consider COVID-19 disease when presenting to hospital. In addition, the high reported hospital mortality rate indicates a need for investment in intensive care for children in African settings. We need more such rigorous multicentre studies to inform evidence-based policymaking in Nigeria and other African countries.

Robert Gallo, MD, Homer & Martha Gudelsky Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the University of Maryland Medical School Institute of Human Virology, a GVN Center of Excellence, and Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor of the GVN, said, “I am delighted to see our team of researchers continue to build on the Institute’s eighteen years of work in African countries, particularly Nigeria, and successfully advance a study in different countries to gather much needed data as this pandemic continues to spread. to evolve. Africa is the epicenter of many epidemics and an important partner in research on viral threats. “Pan” means everything, and we must all work together to fight viral threats against humanity. »

Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland Baltimore, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Professor Emeritus at UMSOM, added, “Studies like these are essential to ensure that no country or region suffers unnecessary hardship. As a result, policymakers and world leaders can better allocate resources to the people and places that need them most. »

The research is based on the presence of the international program of the Institute of Human Virology of the UMSOM and on the network of international experts who work with local actors to fight against infectious diseases throughout the world.

This study was funded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (1R25TW011217-01).

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University System of Maryland, and the University of Maryland Medical System, IHV is an institute of the College of Medicine in the University of Maryland and is home to some of the most recognized and globally recognized experts in all of virology. IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to accelerate the discovery of diagnostics and therapies for a wide variety of chronic and life-threatening viral and immune disorders, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About University of Maryland Medical School

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland Medical School was incorporated in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today to be one of the world’s fastest growing leading biomedical research enterprises – with 46 academic departments, centers, institutes and programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a two-time distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of over $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide intensive research, academic, and clinical care to nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has nearly $600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments ranking highly among all medical schools in the nation for research funding. As one of seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents and fellows. The combined medical school and medical system (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of more than $6 billion and an economic impact of nearly $20 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks 8th among public medical schools in terms of research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-up companies. In the last US News and World Report ranking of best medical schools, released in 2021, UM School of Medicine is ranked #9 among 92 public medical schools in the United States and among the top 15% (#27) of 192 public and private medical schools in the United States. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit

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