Infants, children and adolescents are equally capable of carrying high amount of SARS-CoV-2 load, the virus causing COVID-19, in their respiratory secretions, a new study has found. It says that they are more likely to transmit the COVID-19 virus due to the unavailability of vaccines to them.
According to the study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the high amount of virus correspond with live, infectious virus, and that levels are at peak early during the infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic kids, Times Now reported.
The researchers, which was led by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women's Hospital, Ragon Institute, MIT and Harvard, studied 110 kids aged two weeks to 21 years who were COVID positive at MGH or urgent care clinics. The study could not find any correlation between the kids age and the amount of their viral load. The researchers also found that viral load did not correlate with the disease severeness in the children themselves, but concerns remain for them and the people around them.
"KIds have the ability to carry the virus and infect others as well," said Lael Yonker, a pediatric pulmonologist at MGH.
"There had been the question about whether the high viral load in kids correlated with the live virus. We've been able to provide a definitive answer that these high viral loads are infectious," she added.
Infected Children Can Harbour Virus Variants
As COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, infected kids are potential "reservoirs" for the evolution of new variants and potential spreaders of existing variants, Yonker said.
"Even if they are asymptomatic, COVID positive children are infectious and can harbour the virus variants, which could potentially impact both the severity of the disease and vaccine effectiveness, as we see with the Delta variant. When we cultured the live virus, we found a wide range of genetic variants. These have the potential to be more contagious and also make children more sick," she said.
Further, the viral loads of children admitted in hospitals was same from those found in hospitalised adults, as per the study. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited the same evidence and suggested that when compared to adults, kids "likely have same viral loads in their nasopharynx, similar secondary infection rates, and could spread the viral infection to others". The study called for rising awareness of pediatric COVID and implementing broader testing programmes for kids as they are a vital component in the fight against COVID-19.