Study: Children can carry coronavirus in respiratory tract for weeks

Children can carry coronavirus in respiratory tract for weeks
New study found that children can carry coronavirus in their throats and noses for weeks. Source: CNN
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Daily US Times: Researchers in South Korea reported that Children can carry coronavirus in their throats and noses for weeks even if they don’t show any symptoms, which might explain how the virus can spread silently.

The researchers wrote in a new study: “In this case series study, inapparent infections in children may have been associated with silent COVID-19 transmission in the community.”

Dr. Meghan Delaney and Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, both of Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, wrote in an accompanying editorial: “Interestingly, this study aligns with adult data in which up to 40% of adults may remain asymptomatic in the face of infection.”

Neither of them was involved in the research that was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Friday.

They wrote: “In this study, the authors estimate that 85 infected children (93%) would have been missed using a testing strategy focused on testing of symptomatic patients alone.”

Children can carry coronavirus in their noses and throats for weeks even if they don’t show any symptoms. Source: Getty Images

The study comes out at a time when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been criticized for changing its guidelines on asymptomatic testing, which in a statement on Friday the American Academy of Pediatrics called “a dangerous step backward”.

some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they’ve been in close contact with someone known to have the virus, according to the CDC’s updated guidelines.

This newly released research adds more evidence as to why casting a wide net when it comes to contact tracing is a key strategy to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

AAP President Dr. Sally Goza said in the statement: “We know that children often show few or no symptoms of COVID-19. We also know they are not immune to this virus, and they can become very sick. Testing exposed individuals who may not yet show symptoms of COVID-19 is crucial to contact tracing, which helps identify and support other people who are at risk of infection.”

Hard to diagnose

The study included data on 91 asymptomatic, presymptomatic and symptomatic children diagnosed with Covid-19 between February 18 and March 31 at 22 centers throughout South Korea.

Source: AP

Among those patients, 20 of them — or 22% — did not show any obvious symptoms of coronavirus and remained asymptomatic throughout the study.

Another 18 children — or 20% — were presymptomatic, which means they didn’t look or feel sick at the time but eventually got symptoms later.

In total, more than half of the children — 71 kids or 78% — did show symptoms, which included diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, cough and loss of smell or taste, among other symptoms. The duration of the symptoms appeared to vary, ranging from 1 to 36 days.

DeBiasi and Delaney wrote: “This suggests that even mild and moderately affected children remain symptomatic for long periods of time.”

The data showed that only 8.5% of those patients with coronavirus symptoms were diagnosed with Covid-19 at the time their symptoms began. Most — 66.2% — of the patients with symptoms had symptoms that were not recognized before they were diagnosed, and 25.4% developed symptoms after they were diagnosed.

DeBiasi and Delaney wrote: “This highlights the concept that infected children may be more likely to go unnoticed either with or without symptoms and continue on with their usual activities, which may contribute to viral circulation within their community.”

The study found genetic material from the virus was detectable in the children for a mean of 17.6 days overall. Even in the children who had no coronavirus symptoms, the virus was detectable for 14 days on average. The study said tt’s also possible that the virus remained in the children even longer, because the date of initial infection wasn’t identified.

A child in a medical mask during a coronavirus pandemic.

However, experts say this doesn’t necessarily mean the children were spreading virus.

In a statement on Friday, Calum Semple, professor in child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said that the presence of the virus genetic material in swabs “need not equate with transmission, particularly in people who do not have important symptoms such as cough and sneeze.” Mr Semple was not involved in the study.

In addition, DeBiasi and Delaney wrote that “sensitive molecular detection methods may detect viable, infective virus but also nonviable or fragments of RNA with no capability for transmission.”

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