Study fails to validate its conclusions
“This study attempts to test the hypothesis that various social restrictions were associated with a decrease in rate of diagnosed Kawasaki disease cases during portions of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,” Mark Gorelik, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University, New York, said in an interview.
“However, it appears that it fails to achieve this conclusion and I disagree with the findings,” said Dr. Gorelik, who was not involved in the study but served as first author on an updated Kawasaki disease treatment guideline published earlier this spring in Arthritis & Rheumatology.
“The study does not find statistically significant associations either with shelter in place orders or with cell phone mobility data, as stated in the conclusion, directly contradicting its own claim,” Dr. Gorelik said. “Secondly, the study makes an assumption that various methods, especially the wearing of masks by children and school closures, had a significant effect on the spread of respiratory viruses. There are no prospective, population based, controlled real world studies that validate this claim, and two prospective controlled real-world studies that dispute this,” he emphasized. “Cloth masks and surgical masks, which were the types of masks worn by school students, are also known to have a nonsignificant and paltry – in the latter, certainly less than 50%, and perhaps as little as 10% – effect on the reduction of respiratory viral spread,” he added.
“Mechanistic studies on mask wearing may suggest some mask efficacy, but these studies are as valid as mechanistic studies showing the effect of various antifungal pharmaceuticals on the replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus in culture, meaning only valid as hypothesis generating, and ultimately the latter hypothesis failed to bear out,” Dr. Gorelik explained. “We do not know the reason why other respiratory viruses and non-SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses declined during the pandemic, but we do know that despite this, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus itself did not appear to suffer the same fate. Thus, it is very possible that another factor was at work, and we know that during other viral pandemics, typically circulating viruses decline, potentially due to induction of interferon responses in hosts, in a general effect known as ‘viral interference,’ ” he said.
“Overall, we must have robust evidence to support benefits of hypotheses that have demonstrated clear damage to children during this pandemic (such as school closures), and this study fails to live up to that requirement,” Dr. Gorelik said.
The study was supported by the Gordon and Marilyn Macklin Foundation and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Dr. Burney and Dr. Gorelik had no financial conflicts to disclose.