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expert reaction to Delphi consensus study on a long-COVID definition in children

A study, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, looked at a long-COVID definition in children.

This Roundup accompanied an SMC Briefing.


Dr Daniel Munblit, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Imperial College London, said:

“It is great to see results of the Delphi consensus process on Long COVID (Post-COVID-19 condition) definition in children finally published. Delphi is a process very commonly used in modern research and is aiming to achieve a consensus among relevant stakeholders on a given matter upon a series of surveys which follow a well-established methodology. Researchers, healthcare professionals and patient-representatives respond to few rounds of surveys and then their responses are collated after each round. A consensus meeting is held then to reach consensus on every aspect related to the matter.

“This work is of an extreme importance to the patients and researchers as it will undoubtably result in a substantial improvement of all future Long COVID research endeavours. In the absence of agreed definition of Long COVID in children researchers were applying very different definitions across the studies which did not allow for the data to be collated and properly meta-analysed. This problem, among many others, limited our understanding of Long COVID and slowed the research down.

“Prof Stephenson and colleagues should be praised for an effort they have made aligning the developed definition with the clinical case definition in adults proposed by the WHO. Complementary definitions will help with Long COVID features and prevalence comparison between different age groups and will improve Long COVID data quality worldwide.

“It is very important to note that the definition developed as a result of the Delphi process was not intended to be used for the purposes of clinical referral, investigation, or treatment. Hopefully, future research will address this unmet need.”


Dr David Strain, Chair of BMA Board of Science and Clinical senior lecturer and honorary consultant, University of Exeter Medical School, said:

“This is high quality research coming from a world renowned team of researchers into child health.

“A Delphi study builds a consensus from the world’s experts by presenting a series of statements and continuing to refine them until there is agreement as to what the definition of paediatric long COVID should be. This is vitally important in order to align the global research effort into long COVID. It will allow international researchers to compare the estimates of prevalence, incidence and therapeutic benefits of different agents moving forward. It important to add the caveat that this is the research definition rather than a clinical case definition. For example the 12 week period in the research definition does not necessarily mean that a child or young person should need to wait 3 months before being offered help or assistance from their health care team, indeed a 3 month delay in offering support to a child or young person, at this vitally important period of their educational development could have lasting long term impacts.”


‘Long COVID (Post-COVID-19 condition) in Children: a modified Delphi Process’ by name of Terence Stephenson et al. was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood at 23:30 UK time on Monday 7th February.


Declared interests

None received.


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