COVID-19: Kids' Noses May Carry More Virus Than Adults'

Henrietta Brewer
August 1, 2020

Heald-Sargent first became interested in the question of how COVID-19 affects children after receiving some odd test results-children's swab samples were indicating a higher load of virus than adults, a counterintuitive observation given that kids appear far less likely to develop symptoms.

The authors state that this does not necessarily mean that children younger than five are more capable of passing the virus on to others, but suggest that the findings could influence the debate over the reopening of schools. The average price of pre-school care has increased over the past year, sending child care prices to an average of GBP200 in parts of the southeast.

These differences approximated a 10- to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the nasopharynx of young children, the authors wrote in a research letter in JAMA Pediatrics. The SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed on nasopharyngeal swabs collected at various hospitals and clinics including drive-through testing sites at a pediatric tertiary medical center in Chicago, Illinois.

The Scientists reported that the new study of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital revealed that children under five years old might carry just as much SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA, or even more.


The study says children could be "important drivers" of the spread of the virus.

The study included 145 individuals aged between one month and 65 years with mild to moderate Covid-19 who were studied in three groups - children younger than five years, children of 5 to 17 years, and adults of 18 to 65 years.

Heald-Sargant added that more studies should be carried out to know whether these children will transmit the infection to adults. "So far this transmission doesn't seem to be primarily coming from children", said Heald-Sargent.

Other experts say that while they're not surprised by the findings, it's good to have the study.


According to the researchers, the current findings point to the possibility that the youngest children transmit the virus as much as other age groups.

In a commentary accompanying the publication of the new studies, deputy editor of JAMA Cardiology Clyde Yancy and section editor Gregg Fonarow call for urgent ongoing research to better understand the cardiovascular complications associated with COVID-19, as preparations may be necessary for what could be another dimension to this pandemic crisis.

The general consensus on children and the novel coronavirus is that they neither play as large a role in spreading it as adults, nor do they contract the disease as often.

The reasons could vary from the small size of the for autopsy and the ripe age of the patients.


"It's a struggle to get them to wear their masks and to wash their hands and to not put everything in their mouth and their nose", she said. "It definitely shows that kids do have levels of virus similar to and maybe even higher than adults", Heald-Sargent tells the Times. This is a warning in itself, that young children should not only be kept indoors but should also be taken care of.

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