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Here's why Covid-19 impacts kids less

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on November 16, 2020
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This is being reiterated in the wake of a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The younger the child, the safer he/she is from the Covid-19 viral infection even though the kid may carry higher viral loads compared to adults, doctors in the UAE have pointed out.

Researchers have also often called the 'gap' in contracting the disease between children and adults “puzzling” and said it “may be related to both exposure and host factors”.

This is being reiterated in the wake of a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and supported by researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in the US. The study highlights that children have lower levels of an enzyme/co-receptor that SARS-CoV-2, the RNA virus that causes Covid-19, needs to invade airway epithelial cells in the lung.

Dr Hussein Nasser Matlik, Consultant-Paediatric Neurology and Head of Department Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, said: “This is because coronavirus has spike-shaped projections on its surface. These projections are glycoproteins. Inside the body, the virus enters the cell through receptors on the air sacs or airway of the lung. The number of these receptors is low in children or even absent in some. This guards children against the virus more than in the case of older people.” He added: “The younger the child is, the safer he/she is from the viral infection.”

Immune response

Two possible mechanisms explain the difference in the nature and degree of immune response to Covid-19.

Dr Jimmy Joseph, Specialist Internal Medicine, Aster Specialty Clinic, International city (Pavilion Mall, France Cluster), explained: “First, children might not be as severely affected because there are other coronaviruses that spread in the community and cause diseases such as the common cold. Since children often get colds, their immune systems might be primed to provide them with some protection against Covid-19. It's also possible that children's immune systems interact with the virus differently than that of adults.”

He added: “Another hypothesis has to do with the receptor ACE2 (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2), which is reduced in the respiratory tract of children. However, studies show this finding may be contradictory at times. Research has also shown that children can have relatively high viral loads compared to adults but that does not necessarily mean they are spreading the disease more. Children younger than ages 10 to 14 are less likely to become infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 compared to people aged 20 and older.”

Dr Puneet Wadhwa, Specialist Paediatrician, Prime Hospital, underlined: “Children do get the infection but they may not show a strong response because the receptor in the lungs where the virus binds are not as developed. So they may recover faster.”

"The most important advice here is to watch paediatrics' symptoms and encourage self-hygiene,” cautioned Dr Rasha Alani - Specialist Family Medicine from Medcare Medical Centre - Al Rashidiya.

nandini@khaleejtimes.com





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