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.

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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Covid vaccine research

Getting to a COVID-19 vaccine as fast and as safely as possible

Early in the pandemic, it was predicted that a vaccine would be available within 12-18 months. But how realistic is that? We sat down with Dr. Rick Malley, a vaccine expert at Boston Children’s, who notes that COVID-19 is a tricky illness and that safety considerations must be a priority.

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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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MIS-C Research

More details on MIS-C, the post-COVID multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children

The largest study to date provides more details multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a rare complication of COVID-19 in children and adolescents. The study, led by Dr. Adrienne Randolph, is continuing to track MIS-C across the country.

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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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Drs. Downing and Levy

Designing a vaccine for coronavirus

The Precision Vaccines Program (PVP) at Boston Children’s is on the front lines of developing a coronavirus vaccine. Ofer Levy, MD, director of the PVP, discusses the PVP’s ongoing work.

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The Boston Children's science community responds to COVID-19


Studies Detail Syndrome in Kids Linked to COVID


Researchers investigate whether wearable apps could unveil hidden coronavirus cases

ABC News
Researchers are investigating whether subtle hints from wearable wellness devices could help identify asymptomatic cases — a critical advantage in the race to trace the virus's spread. Boston Children’s Chief Innovation Officer, John Brownstein, PhD, lends his expertise to the article.


US researchers test the first experimental coronavirus vaccine

ABC News
In a segment for ABC News (via Yahoo!), Boston Children’s Chief Innovation Officer, John Brownstein, PhD, discusses the process of developing and testing a vaccine for COVID-19.


The timetable for a coronavirus vaccine is 18 months. Experts say that's risky.

As the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths surges past 3,000, the pressure on the scientific community to find a vaccine is immense. Boston Children’s Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, and David Dowling, PhD, are working tirelessly to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19 that would help the elderly population.


Social media posts and online searches hold vital clues about pandemic spread

Scientific American
Nearly a week before the World Health Organization first warned of a mysterious new respiratory disease in Wuhan, China, a team of Boston-based sleuths at the global disease monitoring system HealthMap captured digital clues about the outbreak from an online press report. Boston Children’s Chief Innovation Officer, John Brownstein, PhD, is interviewed for the story.


COVID-19 spreads too fast for traditional contact tracing. New digital tools could help.

Every strategy for releasing COVID-19’s vise-grip on daily life starts with identifying cases and tracing their contacts. Existing digital tools that use cellphone location data and an app for self-reporting positive test results could make the impossible possible, the authors of a new analysis argue. Boston Children’s Maia Majumder, PhD, is quoted.


Help researchers track coronavirus by reporting your COVID-19 symptoms online

Discover reports on COVID Near You, which allows anyone in the U.S. to self-report their location and how they’re feeling. Boston Children’s Kara Sewalk, MPH, is interviewed for the article.


The Irishman researching how vaccines can be more effective in older people

The Irish Times
Boston Children’s David Dowling, PhD is interviewed about his work with Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 that works well in seniors.


Boston Children's Hospital uses data to create an AI coronavirus map

Chief Innovation Officer, John Brownstein, discusses HealthMap, an AI tool developed by researchers at Boston Children’s that tracks the spread of COVID-19.

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.