Viral load in children with COVID-19 higher than in adults

In the most comprehensive study to date of pediatric COVID-19 patients, researchers provide critical data showing that viral loads are high in children. In addition, it can affect the spread of the coronavirus in schools. In a study of 192 children, ages 0-22, 49 children tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and another 18 children had late-onset disease related to COVID-19. This showed that the infected children had significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than adult patients in intensive care units.

Is the viral load more contagious in children?

virus load in children with coronavirus as a potential risk of infection

The study authors were surprised at the high levels of virus they found in children of all ages. In addition, the transferability or the risk of infection is correspondingly greater with a high virus concentration. Even when children have symptoms typical of COVID-19 such as fever, runny nose and cough, these often overlap with childhood illnesses such as influenza and the common cold. This confuses an accurate diagnosis. Along with the viral load in children, the researchers examined the expression of the virus receptor and the antibody response in healthy little patients. There were also children with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and a smaller number of those with multisystem disease. The results of throat and nasal swabs as well as blood samples have an impact on the reopening of schools, day care centers and other locations with a high density of children and the close interaction with teachers and staff.

The researchers believe that children are not immune to this infection and that their symptoms do not correlate with exposure and infection. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they mainly examined symptomatic subjects. Thus, they have come to the wrong conclusion that the vast majority of people infected are adults. The study results show that children are not protected against coronavirus and should also be viewed as potential spreaders.

Study results

schools reopen during the covid 19 pandemic keep social distance

Researchers found that while children with COVID-19 do not get sick as often as asymptomatic carriers who attend their school. However, they can transmit coronavirus and bring the infection home. This is a particular problem for families in certain socio-economic groups that have been harder hit by the pandemic, as well as for multi-generational families and vulnerable older adults in the same household. In the study, 51 percent of children with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection came from low-income communities. The researchers compared this with 2 percent from high-income communities.

In another groundbreaking finding from the study, data from the group shows that while younger children have fewer viral receptors than older children and adults, this does not correlate with decreased viral load in children. According to the authors, this finding suggests that children can carry high levels of the virus. This means they are more contagious regardless of their susceptibility to developing COVID-19 infection. These study results therefore primarily emphasize measures to control infection. This includes social distancing, universal mask use, effective hand washing, and a combination of distance and face-to-face learning. Researchers consider routine and continued testing of all students for SARS-CoV-2, with timely reporting of results, as an essential part of a safe return to school.

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