Children are unlikely to have played a significant role in the spread of the coronavirus in the first wave last year, study finds.
Throughout the pandemic, it has become increasingly evident that children are less affected by Covid-19; symptoms, serious illnesses and deaths in children are all much lower than one would expect compared to the rest of the population.
Figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that the current risk of dying from coronavirus if infected is 1,513 per 100,000 people over 80, but for children aged five to nine, it it is only 0.1 per 100,000.
The exact reason for this discrepancy remains unknown, but a leading theory claims that young people have fewer receptors that the virus uses to enter cells, making it more difficult for the virus to infect children. These receptors become more abundant with age.
The new German study enrolled parents and children from families in a trial that ran between April and May 2020 – before new variants, which might be better at infecting children, emerged.
Research found that children were much less likely to be infected than their guardians and were also less likely to pass it on to someone in their household.
Children are unlikely to play a significant role in the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new study. Blood tests revealed that 1.8% of adults had antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for Covid-19. The figure for children was only 0.6%, a threefold decrease (stock)
Young children infected with coronavirus have a SIXTEENTH viral load over age 80
Children of primary school age infected with the coronavirus have much lower viral loads than adults with Covid-19, study found.
Viral load – the amount of virus a person lodges in their nose and throat – is believed by some scientists to be related to transmissibility, although there is debate over these claims.
Data from public health officials in the Netherlands shows that those over 80 have a viral load 16 times that of children under 12.
Rapid antigen tests, like those suggested for use in schools and airports, are also likely to be less accurate for children than for adults, due to this smaller load, the researchers say.
A total of 4,964 people (half the parents and half the children) were enrolled in the study, published today in Pediatrics JAMA.
The average age of the children was six, but ranged from one to ten, and the average age of the parents was 40.
All participants were washed and also had blood tests for any signs of antibodies.
Only two people – a parent and a child from the same family – were currently infected.
Blood tests revealed that 1.8% of adults had antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for Covid-19. The figure for children was only 0.6%, a decrease of three times.
The data also showed that there were 56 cases of at least one of the family members having the virus.
An already infected adult and an uninfected child were 4.3 times more common than a previously infected child and an uninfected parent.
Researchers at University Children’s Hospital Im Neuenheimer Feld in Heidelberg and University Medical Center Ulm write: “ In this cross-sectional study, the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection during a lockdown period in southwestern Germany was particularly low in older children. 1 to 10 years.
“As a result, children are unlikely to have amplified the pandemic.”
The study was conducted when schools were closed and children were therefore less exposed to the virus, but researchers not involved in the study say that doesn’t mean the results are irrelevant.
Figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that the current risk of dying from coronavirus if infected is 1,513 per 100,000 people over 80, but for children aged five to nine, it only 0.1 per 100,000 (photo in stock)
PHE finds ‘very few’ Covid outbreaks in schools that reopened during the summer
There have been “ very few ” coronavirus outbreaks in schools and nurseries that reopened over the summer, according to government research.
Only 55 Covid groups were registered at educational institutions across England in the seven weeks leading up to July 17, when No10 began the gradual reopening of schools.
Researchers led by a team from Public Health England assigned strict infection control measures over the summer, as the disease only circulated at low rates, claiming that smaller classes with better social distancing would inevitably have helped to thwart the virus.
But they admitted that the nationwide reopening of schools to all children in September – which officials said helped fuel Britain’s second wave – would inevitably have led to more outbreaks, as it was not also easy to separate young people in fully open facilities.
Teachers’ unions have repeatedly tried to derail plans to allow young people to return to class this summer, saying it would put staff and students at too great a risk of catching the virus.
Dr Sean O’Leary of the University of Colorado, who wrote an editorial on German research, said: ‘Although the numbers are quite low as a result of daycare attendance, the children who attended the daycare had in fact a lower seroprevalence than those who did not (0.5% for children in daycare versus 1.0% for children not in daycare) ”.
He continues, “ Looking at parent-child dyads within the same household, this study suggests that children were both less likely to get the infection when they were in the household and less likely to spread it throughout the household. household when infected. ”
The study period in the spring of 2020 was before the emergence of new, highly virulent strains of coronavirus, such as those originating in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.
Dr Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, known as the ‘Professor Lockdown’ due to his spring predictions plunging the UK into its first draconian national lockdown, said in December he was possible that the Kent variant, known scientifically as B.1.1.7, may be better at infecting children than older strains.
The NERVTAG member who advises No10 said there was a “ hint ” that children – who have barely been affected by the pandemic so far – were more susceptible to the mutation.
It found that the number of cases of the new variant in those under the age of 15 was significantly higher than that of other strains – but did not reveal any exact figure.
Speaking at a virtual press briefing in December, he said: ‘There is a clue that he has a greater propensity to infect children. Maybe that can explain some of the differences, but we haven’t established any sort of causation.
Other experts were quick to add that the data is preliminary and no evidence of causation has yet been found.
Members of COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) later said they were “ unaware ” of any data to suggest this could be the case.
Speaking a day after Professor Ferguson made his comments, he announced that there was not enough data at the time to comment on how this is affecting certain groups. He has yet to release updated evidence on this matter.
Why children are less affected by Covid-19
Children are less at risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid and dying from the disease due to a multitude of differences between the body and immune system of young people and adults, study finds.
Australian researchers have identified several specific physiological differences that may explain why Covid-19 is rarely severe or fatal in children.
These include strong, intact cells in their blood vessels that prevent inflammation and clotting; high levels of vitamin D; a fast and well-oiled immune system; and fewer ACE2 receptors, which the coronavirus uses to infect cells.
While Covid-19 causes well-documented respiratory problems in adults, especially vulnerable and elderly people, other respiratory conditions affect children as well.
However, the youngest in society are clearly less affected by the coronavirus infection, accounting for only a tiny proportion of cases, hospital admissions and deaths.
A recent US study looked at children’s hospital admissions at seven different hospitals and found only four percent of children tested positive for the virus.
The research looked at the tests of more than 135,000 children who went to hospital for various reasons before September 8.
It found that only 5,374 (4.0 percent) of the patients tested positive and, of that small percentage, only 359 (6.7 percent) were hospitalized, including 99 in intensive care.
Eight of the infected patients (0.15%) later died. Six of the deaths were from patients with “complex pre-existing comorbidities,” the scientists said.
But why this is the case has remained a mystery until now, with scientists and medics trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.