Children with Coronavirus Produce the Same Amount of Virus as Adults

We all know that kids seem protected against the coronavirus (SARS CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 disease.  They rarely get ill, although there are reports of serious and deadly disease.   A different issue,  is whether children can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus and spread the disease to other age groups which are more likely to get seriously ill.  It is a big issue since many communities are considering opening up the schools, especially for younger children, whose parents need to go back to work.

One question arose: might infected kids produce less virus than infected adults?  This has now been addressed in an interesting paper from German/British Virology labs:

An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 viral load by patient age. By Terry C. Jones et al.

They examined viral load by real-time RT-PCR threshold cycle values (which is a relatively sophisticated method.  And they looked at 3,712 COVID-19 patients of all ages.

They found no significant difference between any age categories including children: the viral loads in the very young did not differ significantly from those of adults:

Screen Shot 2020-05-15 at 10.27.14 AM

This graph shows that patients (each represented by a single dot) spanned a spectrum of different viral loads (Y-axis) from log 104 to log 1012.  That is a huge variation in viral load (which is expected) but importantly there is no statistical difference between any of the age groups (X-axis).

Note that the numbers of dots are less dense for kids up to 20 years-old and for 91-100 year-old persons.  That is simply because there were fewer individuals in these age groups.

Patients were recruited From Jan.26 through April, 26, 2020: 59,831 patients in total,  3,712 (6.2%) had a positive RT PCR test.

Note that these individuals included all comers, both symptomatic and asymptomatic.


About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
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