Correspondent in Berlin
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been told that children are less infected than adults. In many spaces where adults are required to wear a mask, children breathe freely, as a consequence of this perception of lower risk. But as the months of health crisis roll on and scientists have a chance to study the data, that myth is falling. In the first and second waves, many more children were infected with the coronavirus than previously thought, as confirmed by researchers at the Helmholtz Center in Munich. Their research has shown that between three and four times more children had antibodies at the end of the second wave than infections detected in children by PCR tests. Total, antibodies were present in about eight times as many children at the end of the second wave than after the first wave. The spread of the British B117 mutation is also causing infection rates to skyrocket among children.
The study by the team led by Anette-Gabriele Ziegler grew out of previous research. This scientific team followed a program for the early detection of type 1 diabetes and systematically examined a large group of children in Bavaria, to whom it began to add tests for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. In the testing period, from October 2020 to February 2021, 5.6% of blood samples taken from preschool children showed the presence of antibodies. The figure for school-age children reached 8.4%. The final results show that a total three to four times more preschool and school-age children in Bavaria were infected with SARS-CoV-2, in reference to the information obtained through PCR tests. Of 446 infected children, 68% of the preschoolers were asymptomatic and still had antibodies. Among schoolchildren, the percentage was 51.2%.
“It is often assumed that children are less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection than adults. However, the data to support that claim is scarce. The results of our study clearly show that both preschool and school children are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection»Says Anette-Gabriele Ziegler. Their data also shows that the original form of the coronavirus has spread as much among children as the variant of the B117 virus.
The results of this research help to better interpret previous studies published in the journal Nature, such as that of Columbia University, led by Donna Farber, which concluded that «children are better equipped with their immune systems to respond to the virus than adults ». This conclusion emerged from a test to assess the immune response of children carried out in a family with three children under the age of ten. The children developed antibodies to Covid-19, and two of them even experienced mild symptoms, but none tested positive for PCRDespite being tested eleven times over a month while in contact with their parents, they did test positive.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 1.2% of infections are detected in children under 4 years of age; 2.5% in children between 4 and 14 years old; and 9.6% in young people between 15 and 24 years old. However, in people between 25 and 64 years old, 64% of infections are detected and in people over 65, 22% of cases. The experts ‘explanation is that children’s immune systems see the virus’ and it just generates this really fast and effective immune response that shuts it down, before it has a chance to replicate to the point where it tests positive. of diagnosis with swab “, assures the immunologist, Melanie Neeland. And although infection is less dangerous for them due to their immune reaction, it remains to be seen to what extent they are transmission agents despite not presenting symptoms or testing positive in PCR tests.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism