What You Need To Know
- Out of 192 young people between zero and 22, 49 tested positive for COVID-19
- Half of those who tested positive did not have a fever
- Although children have fewer receptors to catch the virus than adults, they carry still high amounts of it
Researchers found that among 192 children, 49 tested positive for COVID-19 and had much higher levels of the virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in intensive care units, according to the study published by Journal of Pediatrics on Thursday.
“Kids are not immune from this infection, and their symptoms don’t correlate with exposure and infection,” said Dr. Alessio Fasano, senior author and director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Researcher Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The study included young people from ages zero to 22 who arrived at an urgent care clinic or hospital and were suspected to have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
According to Fasano, some children were taken to clinics and hospitals after exhibiting symptoms, but some showed no symptoms and went in because they had been in contact with an infected person or lived in a high-risk area.
“During this COVID-19 pandemic, we mainly screened symptomatic subjects, so we have reached the erroneous conclusion that the vast majority of people infected are adults. We should not discount children as potential spreaders for this virus,” Fasano said.
The study challenged the current thought process that children are less likely to get sick because they have fewer virus receptors than adults. According to the research, the receptor (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2) binds to the virus and allows it to infect the healthy cell.
Because of the fact they carried high levels of the virus despite having fewer receptors, this led to the belief that children are more contagious, calling them “silent spreaders.”
The study also found that only half of the children who tested positive had a fever, leading them to question the accuracy of non-contact thermal scanners.
“Kids are a possible source of spreading this virus,” Fasano said. “And this should be taken into account in the planning stages for reopening schools.”
With states experiencing spikes in cases and mass quarantine situations due to the reopening of schools, this study may simply add proof to what communities are already witnessing. As COVID-19 data expands and more research is conducted, in-person school options may be less and less while the pandemic-ridden year crawls forward.