(Reuters) – Children under the age of five carried high levels of coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract, according to a small study released on Thursday that raises new questions about whether children can infect others.
Data on children as sources of coronavirus transmission are scarce, and early reports found no serious evidence that children are major supporters of the deadly virus, which has killed 669,632 people worldwide.
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, will provide an important insight into the potential for transmission in children.
From 2020 March 23 Until April 27. A team of researchers from Anna and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University tested swab collections from inpatient, outpatient, emergency department, and test sites in Chicago, Illinois.
The study included 145 people aged between one month and 65 years with mild to moderate COVID-19, who were studied in three groups: children under five years of age, children aged 5 to 17 years, and adults aged 18 to 65 years.
Their analysis shows that the upper respiratory tract virus was 10 to 100 times higher in young children than in adults.
Virus levels in older children with COVID-19 are similar to those in adults. In this study, children under the age of 5 were found to have higher levels of viral nucleic acid, the genetic code of proteins that allow them to produce new viruses.
The study looked only at the viral nucleic acid and not at the infectious virus, meaning it was unclear whether the children would spread the virus.
However, the prevalence of young children raises concerns about their behavioral habits and proximity to schools and day care centers as public health restrictions are more lenient, the researchers said.
The researchers said the results, in addition to public health effects, could help focus this population when immunization efforts are made when COVID-19 vaccines become available.
(Vishwadha Chander reportage in Bengaluru; editing by Aurora Ellis)