Saturday, 15 May, 2021

Young children carry higher levels of coronavirus, says study

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Gustavo Carr | 01 August, 2020, 19:14

But new research says children younger than 5 years old can hoard up to 100 times more of the virus in their noses than older children and adults, suggesting kids could be a significant driver of viral spread.

The team also found that infected children younger than 5 years old may carry up to 100 times as much of SARS-CoV-2 in their noses and throats as adults. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

The WHO had issued an advisory putting warning that children and the elderly are susceptible to COVID-19 and the danger of the disease hovers around their head in comparison to an average healthy adult.

The new findings are at odds with the current view among health authorities that young children - who, it has been well established, are far less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus - don't spread it much to others either.

The general consensus on children and the novel coronavirus is that they neither play as large a role in spreading it as adults, nor do they contract the disease as often.

The authors say inoculating children as soon as there is a vaccine will be key.

The study said that replication of SARS-CoV-2 in older children leads to similar levels of viral nucleic acid as adults, but significantly greater amounts of viral nucleic acid are detected in children younger than five years.

"The school situation is so complicated - there are many nuances beyond just the scientific one", stated study leader Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent, a paediatric infectious disease expert at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

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A new study found children age five or younger had viral loads between 10-fold and 100-fold greater in their upper respiratory tract.

The study notes that it is possible these abnormal CMR findings were present prior to COVID-19 infection, however, it is also likely that the viral infection amplified any pre-existing cardiovascular damage.

"We've known for quite a while that for certain respiratory viruses, younger children are the breeding ground and they're the part of the population that spreads it to the rest of the community", said Smit, who is also the hospital's epidemiologist and the medical director for infection prevention and control.

However, the study also noted that it had some limitations as the findings are not validated for the use in pediatric patients 18 years and younger. Hence, they had fewer opportunities to transmit. "So far this transmission doesn't seem to be primarily coming from children", said Heald-Sargent.

Heald-Sargant added that more studies should be carried out to know whether these children will transmit the infection to adults. And schools have largely been closed since spring, making it hard to ascertain how widely kids can spread this virus.

The report comes at a time when President Donald Trump's administration in the U.S. is insisting on opening schools and daycare.

Heald-Sargent, T., Muller, Q., Zheng, et al.

Lurie Children's required all hospitalized patients to undergo a COVID-19 test, and some cases were discovered, even if children had minimal to no symptoms.