Emerging Insights Into the Pathophysiology of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome Associated With COVID-19 in Children

Justin Lin, Ashraf S. Harahsheh, Geetha Raghuveer, Supriya Jain, Nadine F. Choueiter, Luis Martin Garrido-Garcia, Nagib Dahdah, Michael A. Portman, Nilanjana Misra, Michael Khoury, Marianna Fabi, Matthew D. Elias, Audrey Dionne, Simon Lee, Elif Seda Selamet Tierney, Jean A. Ballweg, Cedric Manlhiot, Brian W. McCrindle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) has emerged as a rare delayed hyperinflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and causes severe morbidity in the pediatric age group. Although MIS-C shares many clinical similarities to Kawasaki disease (KD), important differences in epidemiologic, clinical, immunologic, and potentially genetic factors exist and suggest potential differences in pathophysiology and points to be explored and explained. Epidemiologic features include male predominance, peak age of 6 to12 years, and specific racial or ethnicity predilections. MIS-C is characterized by fever, prominent gastrointestinal symptoms, mucocutaneous manifestations, respiratory symptoms, and neurologic complaints, and patients often present with shock. Cardiac complications are frequent and include ventricular dysfunction, valvular regurgitation, pericardial effusion, coronary artery dilation and aneurysms, conduction abnormalities, and arrhythmias. Emerging evidence regarding potential immunologic mechanisms suggest that an exaggerated T-cell response to a superantigen on the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein—as well as the formation of autoantibodies against cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endothelial antigens—are major contributors to the inflammatory milieu of MIS-C. Further studies are needed to determine both shared and distinct immunologic pathway(s) that underlie the pathogenesis of MIS-C vs both acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and KD. There is evidence to suggest that the rare risk of more benign mRNA vaccine-associated myopericarditis is outweighed by a reduced risk of more severe MIS-C. In the current review, we synthesize the published literature to describe associated factors and potential mechanisms regarding an increased risk of MIS-C and cardiac complications, provide insights into the underlying immunologic pathophysiology, and define similarities and differences with KD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-802
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Cardiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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