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A small study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Thursday raises new questions about whether kids can infect others as some children younger than five years of age have been found to carry major amounts of coronavirus in their upper respiratory tract.
However, no strong evidence has been reported indicating children as major contributors to the novel coronavirus that has caused around 669,632 deaths across the world.
The researchers lay emphasis on the importance of understanding the transmission potential in children, in developing public health guidelines.
Between March 23 and April 27, 2020, a research team from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University (US) tested swab collections from inpatient, outpatient, emergency department, and drive-through testing sites in Chicago, Illinois.
In the study 145 individuals aged between one month and 65 years with mild to moderate covid-19 were studied in groups of three–children younger than five years, children 5 to 17 years, and adults 18 to 65 years.
As per the analysis, the upper respiratory tracts of the young children had a viral load 10-fold to 100-fold greater than adults. This study found greater amounts of viral nucleic acid–the genetic codes for proteins to produce new viruses–in children younger than 5 years.
However, the study focused upon viral nucleic acid and not an infectious virus, which means that there is no clarity whether the children will spread the virus.
The prevalence of such high amounts of the virus in young children is still a matter of concerns with regards to their behavioural habits, and their proximity in schools and daycare centres as public health restrictions are eased.
In addition to public health implications, the researchers also added that the results could help focus on this population while targeting immunization efforts when covid-19 vaccines become finally available.
(With inputs from Reuters)