16 Apr COVID-19: Increasing Evidence Children Less Likely to Transmit Infection within Households or Schools
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jared Bullard MD FRCPC
Associate Professor, Departments of Pediatrics & Child Health and Medical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
Max Rady College of Medicine
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
Cadham Provincial Laboratory
Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Children are well known to transmit epidemic/endemic respiratory viruses like influenza. Initial public health policy was based on that children were likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 effectively within a community and subsequently in-person school and extracurricular activities were suspended.
Initial research did not show a clear association with children driving transmission. The purpose of our study was to take respiratory samples from both children and adults with COVID-19 (all had SARS-CoV-2 detected by RT-PCR) and compare those samples by their ability to grow in cell culture and amount of virus in samples.
We took 175 samples from children (97 younger than 10 years of age and 78 between 11-17 years) and compared them to 130 adult samples from the same communities in Manitoba experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: Samples from children were significantly less likely to grow in cell culture compared to adult samples (19% in children 0-10 years, 23% in children 11-17 years versus 44% in adults). In addition, the amount of virus in positive cell cultures was significantly less in children compared to adults. With over a 50% lower cell culture positivity rate and less virus when compared to adults, our findings support that children are unlikely to the primary drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our findings support the increasing evidence that children are less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 within household, school or community settings. Children benefit from in-person school and extracurricular activities. These benefits must be weighed carefully against the risks to the overall health, development and well-being of children by limiting school and activities to community spread of COVID-19.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Many different strains of SARS-CoV-2 circulated throughout Manitoba for the duration of the study so we know that our findings apply to a variety of types. Recently, variants of concern (VOCs) have become the predominant strain in many parts of the world including Canada. We also know that VOCs are more infectious and can cause more severe disease. It still remains unclear if VOC’s biology is divergent enough from prior strains to transmit effectively in children. Further studies are currently underway.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: It’s important to recognize that children can still be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and develop COVID-19. Fortunately, their disease tends to be mild. Even though they are less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to other children or adults, it is still possible. Children should stay home when sick, wash or sanitize their hands frequently and distance when possible. Masks are another good addition.
Infectivity of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in children compared with adults
Jared Bullard, Duane Funk, Kerry Dust, Lauren Garnett, Kaylie Tran, Alex Bello, James E. Strong, Santina J. Lee, Jillian Waruk, Adam Hedley, David Alexander, Paul Van Caeseele, Carla Loeppky and Guillaume Poliquin
CMAJ April 09, 2021 cmaj.210263; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.210263
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