In a crucial study, the researchers have found that children can be infected with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), but have antibodies against the disease in their blood at the same time.
The study, published on Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that the virus and antibodies can coexist in young patients. "With most viruses, when you start to detect antibodies, you won't detect the virus anymore. But with Covid-19, we're seeing both," said study lead author Burak Bahar from the Children's National Hospital in the US.
"This means children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected," Bahar added.
This study used a retrospective analysis of 6,369 children tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and 215 patients who underwent antibody testing at Children's National between March 13, 2020, and June 21, 2020.
Out of the 215 patients, 33 had co-testing for both the virus and antibodies during their disease course. Nine of the 33 showed the presence of antibodies in their blood while also later testing positive for the virus. The study also assessed the timing of viral clearance and immunologic response. It found the median time from viral positivity to negativity when the virus can no longer be detected, was 25 days.
The researchers found patients from six to 15 years old took a longer time to clear the virus (median of 32 days) compared to patients 16 through 22 years old (median of 18 days). Females in the 6-15 age group also took longer to clear the virus than males (median of 44 days for females compared to a median of 25.5 days for males).
The median time to seropositivity, or the presence of antibodies in the blood, was 18 days, while the median time to reach adequate levels of neutralizing antibodies was 36 days. According to the team, neutralizing antibodies are important in potentially protecting a person from re-infection of the same virus.
Although there is emerging data regarding this timing in adults with Covid-19, there is far less data when it comes to the pediatric population, the study said.
"The takeaway here is that we can't let our guard down just because a child has antibodies or is no longer showing symptom. The continued role of good hygiene and social distancing remains critical," the study authors wrote. Recently, a study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, revealed that children can shed Covid-19 virus even if they never develop symptoms or for long after symptoms have cleared.
The report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association released on Monday said that nearly 4,80,000 children in the US have been infected with the Covid-19 since the pandemic hit the country earlier this year.