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Children below 5 carry 100 times greater Covid-19 caseload than adults: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on July 31, 2020 Published on July 31, 2020

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   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Children below five years of age carry a large amount of coronavirus in their upper respiratory tract, according to a study reported in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

However, earlier reports on children as sources of SARS-CoV-2 did not present strong evidence of young children being carriers of the Covid-19 virus.

According to the report, this is due to the fact that school closures early during the pandemic thwarted larger-scale investigation of schools as a source of community transmission.

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 study noted: “Our analyses suggest children younger than five years with mild to moderate Covid-19 have high amounts of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in their nasopharynx compared with older children and adults.”

It further added: “Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population, as has been demonstrated with a respiratory syncytial virus, where children with high viral loads are more likely to transmit.”

The researchers believe that in addition to public health implications, this young population will be important for targeting immunisation efforts as SARS-CoV-2 vaccines become available.

Methodology

Between March 23 and April 27, 2020, a research team from Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University tested swab collections from inpatient, outpatient, emergency department, and drive-through testing sites in Chicago, Illinois.

The study included 145 individuals aged between one month and 65 years with mild to moderate Covid-19 who were studied in three groups — children younger than five years, children of 5 to 17 years, and adults of 18 to 65 years.

Their analysis suggests that young children have viral loads 10-fold to 100-fold greater than adults in their upper respiratory tracts.

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Published on July 31, 2020
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