CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital is the first in the country to administer a potential treatment for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or MIS-C, a rare complication of COVID-19 that shows up after the virus has left the body.
MUSC officials say the treatment called remestemcel-L was given to 4-year-old K. J. Griffin whose mother brought him to the hospital after his symptoms from a fever got worse.
When the 4-year-old arrived at the hospital doctors say he was in shock, and his heart was dangerously inflamed and needed immediate treatment to prevent organ damage.
Doctors who worked to save him said they suspected MIS-C, and a test for COVID-19 antibodies came back positive. K.J. was given the standard treatment for MIS-C, however doctors said there was still evidence of cardiac dysfunction, and doctors said they were worried that K.J. was at risk for a serious blood clot.
According to hospital officials, when K.J. was given remestemcel-L his condition improved “dramatically.”
“He had very abnormal heart function. But the day of his discharge, his heart function had not only improved but was better than normal,” said Cardiologist Dr. Andrew Atz.
But Atz said that at this point, remestemcel-L is not first-line therapy for MIS-C.
“This shows very good promise, and I could imagine this becoming over time, with more research, potentially a first-line treatment,” Atz said.
MUSC officials said K.J. is one of the lucky ones, and thanks to his mother’s decision to bring him to Charleston, he’s on the mend.
Officials said MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital is the first in the country authorized to give children, with MIS-C who meet certain criteria a potential, remestemcel-L. MUSC officials said the treatment uses mesenchymal stromal cells from the bone marrow of healthy donors.
Those cells may be able to help regulate the immune systems of children with MIS-C and repair damaged tissue.
“The treatment was actually developed for another purpose: to try to treat stem cell transplant patients who develop graft-versus-host disease, GVHD, that doesn’t respond to steroid treatments,” hospital officials said. " GVHD occurs when transplanted stem cells mount an immune system attack against the recipient’s body. The hope is that the treatment will work against MIS-C, too, because it’s also a harmful immune system reaction to a perceived enemy.”
Doctors said it’s important to test possible treatments, such as remestemcel-L, for MIS-C as the coronavirus pandemic continues and more children are diagnosed with MIS-C.
A report by MUSC states that more than a dozen children in South Carolina have had it so far, including seven treated at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. All survived.
However, children in other states have not been as fortunate.
“The CDC is reporting 11 deaths from MIS-C so far. As pediatricians, we don’t want to see any deaths in children,” Dr. Allison Eckard said.