Jul 31, 2020
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Children under 5 may spread more coronavirus than adults – study

Doctors in Chicago have found that young patients with COVID-19 have 10 to 100 times more genetic material than older children and adults. This means that the opening of kindergartens and schools could cause a new surge in the incidence.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Thursday, was conducted from March 23 to April 27 at the Children's Hospital. Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. Specialists took nasal swabs from 145 adults and children with confirmed mild to moderate COVID-19 within a week of the onset of symptoms. The patients were divided into three groups: 46 children under 5 years old, 51 children from 5 to 17 years old and 48 adults 18-65 years old.

Laboratory tests of the samples showed that in the youngest age group, the level of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in the upper respiratory tract was 10-100 times higher than in older children and adults. This may mean that young children have a higher viral load, so they can spread the infection more than other patients.

The authors note that a recent laboratory study has shown that children with an increased respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) viral load are more likely to spread the infection.

"Young children have the potential to be important contributors to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the population," the researchers write.

At the moment, it is known for certain that children are less likely to become infected with the coronavirus and generally carry it easily and even asymptomatically, but there is still no answer to the question of how they spread the infection among themselves and among the adult population. The incoming data from different countries are very contradictory. So, in Switzerland, scientists tracked the contacts of all small patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who were hospitalized in a Geneva hospital. The researchers say that children were the alleged spread of the coronavirus in only three out of 39 cases.

In South Korea, researchers studied contacts of about 5,700 patients from January to March, and found that young children are less likely to become sources of infection compared with children 10 years and older. In 19% of contacts within the family, children from 10 to 19 years old were involved, in 5.3% - children from 0 to 9 years old. This data contradicts the conclusions of doctors from Chicago, but there is an important caveat: all this time, kindergartens and schools in South Korea were quarantined, so it is not known how children who are together in the same room every day spread the infection.

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