Children play an equal role in coronavirus disease transmission, despite being less susceptible to the infection, according to a new study.

The researchers studied over a thousand children and adult patients and found that the viral load is the same in both age groups.

However, the role children play in spreading the virus is still not clear to the Spanish researchers who conducted the study.

The researchers carried out a retrospective study of adults and children who had Covid-19. The findings of the study were published in the medRxiv*preprint server.

The authors looked at 1,184 participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 between June 2020 and January 2021. Of which 256 were less than 18 years old. Among the participants, 424 were positive but did not need hospitalization, and 760 were asymptomatic close contacts of the patients.

When they studied the initial viral loads between children and adults, they found comparable virus loads in both. Although the viral loads in children tended to be lower, the difference was not statistically significant.

The viral loads were higher in the nose and throat swabs obtained within two days of symptom onset in both adults and children than later samples.

However, the researchers observed faster virus clearance from the Upper Respiratory Tract (URT) in children.

The team also tested asymptomatic primary contacts of the symptomatic cases. They found a wide range in the viral loads for both children and adults and were comparable, with no difference depending on different age groups.

While symptomatic children showed a slightly higher viral load than asymptomatic children. In adults, there was a marked increase in viral loads in symptomatic cases than in adults with no symptoms.

The authors concluded: “Our findings indicate that children may spread SARS-CoV-2 in the general population at the same level as adults.”

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