Symptomatic, diabetic Covid positive children have a higher viral load: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 26, 2020 Published on October 26, 2020

Study raises concerns about use of low sensitivity diagnostic tests for screening paediatric population

A study of more than 800 paediatric cases found that asymptomatic Covid-19 positive children have significantly low levels of the virus as compared to children who show symptoms.

The findings of the study raised concerns about the use of low sensitivity diagnostic tests for screening the paediatric population. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

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Study first author Larry Kociolek, a paediatric infectious diseases expert at Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital in the US, said: “While these findings provide some reassurance about the safety of asymptomatically infected children attending school, these unanswered questions suggest that risk mitigation measures in daycares, schools, and the community remain critical to reducing the spread of Covid-19.”

“Children must continue to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash their hands frequently,” Kociolek said.

The researchers further said that it is still difficult to predict which children are likely to carry more or less virus.

“Because in every age group we tested, there were some asymptomatic kids with a higher viral load. However, even the groups of asymptomatic kids with the highest viral load in our study still had lower viral loads than the children with symptoms,” Kociolek said.


For the study, the scientists examined 339 asymptomatic and 478 symptomatic children (ages 0-17 years), who turned out to be Covid-19 positive after PCR tests.

The examination revealed that symptomatic cases and asymptomatic cases coupled with diabetes had a significantly higher estimated risk of the highest viral burden.

Study senior author Nira Pollock, Associate Medical Director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital in the US, said: “We now need to know what the peak viral loads are in asymptomatic kids with Covid-19.”

She questioned: “Did the timing of testing just miss the peak in many of the asymptomatic kids in this study, or do asymptomatic kids actually have lower peak viral loads than symptomatic kids?”

The researchers also noted in their study that the viral load found in the asymptomatic children were mostly lower than the levels detected by rapid antigen tests.

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Published on October 26, 2020
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