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The study found a higher viral load in young children, which raises questions about the likelihood of coronavirus transmission



The study did not measure transferability, but raises questions – as schools begin to reopen – about how easily a new coronavirus can spread to a cohort under 5 years of age.

“We just noticed that some of the children we tested for SARS CoV-2 that were positive seemed to have the youngest children with a high amount of viral nucleic acid – a high viral load in their nose – compared to some of our older children and adults, “said CNN’s lead author, Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric specialist in infectious diseases at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. “So when we … actually ran the numbers, we checked a few things, we found that there was actually a statistically significant larger number of genes that are encoded by SARS, which usually correlates with a larger number of viruses. children under the age of five compared to older children and adults. ̵

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Heald-Sargent and her team analyzed 145 swabs collected from patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 within one week of onset of symptoms; 46 of them were from children under 5 years, 51 from 5 to 17 years and 48 from adults from 18 to 65 years. Samples were taken from late March to late April from various hospital, outpatient, emergency department, and driving test sites at the Children’s Tertiary Medical Center in Chicago.

They found that people under the age of 5 had a statistically significant higher amount of virus particles in their noses, which correlated with “10- to 100-fold higher amounts of coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract …”, the researchers write in their article.

Heald-Sargent argues that further studies must focus on the portability of SARS-CoV-2 in children. “So far, this broadcast does not seem to come primarily from children,” Heald-Sargent said.

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However, her team noted in the newspapers that many young children had fewer opportunities to be transferred due to home-based measures introduced in mid-March.

“The question was still out there: Is it possible that it is mediated by children?” She said that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If any other respiratory viruses are an indication, the answer may be yes.

“Every primary school teacher or pediatrician will tell you [young children] they are very effective small vectors of virus transmission because we suffer a lot from these children in the winter, “she said.” I think looking at similar viruses that are similar … it seems more likely that children will transmit them. “

Other experts say that while their findings are not surprising, it is good to have a study.

“The data in pediatrics were not as robust as in adults with Covid-19, so it’s really nice to have more virological data in pediatric patients,” said Dr. Alpana Waghmare of Seattle Children.

“The authors did a great job comparing the relatively large sample sizes from different age groups and using a fairly simple research plan to focus on the differences in viral load in these age groups,” said Waghmare, a pediatric assistant professor. in the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington.

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Waghmare said the findings are consistent with other published studies that look at viral load in the spectrum of respiratory viruses in pediatric populations. “It is not surprising that we find a higher viral load in children. I don’t think the question of what exactly transmission means is still clear, “she said.

Michael Smit, a pediatrician of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, agrees – and then some.

“We have known for some time that for some respiratory viruses, young children are a breeding ground and part of a population that spreads them to the rest of the community,” said Smit, who is also an epidemiologist at the hospital. and Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control.

Smit said it had been shown previously with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and research by his own group, published as a research paper at the JAMA Network Open in mid-May, showed the same with seasonal coronaviruses. “It is a well-known phenomenon in pediatrics that younger children can be the main drivers of the spread of diseases and communities.”
However, there are still questions about the new coronavirus. A recent study in South Korea found that young people aged 10 to 19 transmitted the Covid-19 program in households in the same way as adults, but children aged 9 and younger transmitted the virus at a much slower rate.

The question remains, what can you do about it?

“When you figure out the dynamics of how much virus there is and what age groups tend to be bigger and smaller, then it can help us create strategies for surveillance, testing, isolation,” he said.

Heald-Sargent said the “behavioral habits” of very young children – such as lack of awareness of personal space and personal hygiene, tricky games, games of play and wiping eyes and noses – make it difficult to control any potential spread, but it is important to try.

“It’s a problem to force them to wear their masks and wash their hands and not put everything in their mouths and noses,” she said.

“When adults have a model of good behavior, their children are encouraged to wash their hands and wear a mask as much as possible, to clean high-touch areas, to be careful with diapers,” these are all good practices. please your parents.

At the societal level, she said it would also be important to implement infection control procedures, such as contact tracing, and take action at school, such as keeping children in the same small groups, to limit the spread.


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