Children may carry coronavirus at high levels, study finds

A small, new study in JAMA Pediatrics found that children who contract COVID-19 have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats compared with infected adults.

A small, new study in JAMA Pediatrics found that children who contract COVID-19 have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats compared with infected adults. Children younger than age 5 years may carry up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, according to the study led by Taylor Heald-Sargent, MD, PhD, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. She observes that "one takeaway from this is that we can't assume that just because kids aren't getting sick, or very sick, that they don't have the virus." The small study did not specify the participants' race or sex, or whether they had underlying conditions. In all, 145 people were included: 46 children younger than age 5 years; 51 children aged 5-17 years; and 48 adults aged 18-65 years. The tests looked for viral RNA rather than the live coronavirus. Heald-Sargent and her colleagues analyzed nasopharyngeal swab samples of adults and children gathered at drive-through testing sites in Chicago from March 23 to April 27, finding older children and adults had similar cycle thresholds (CTs), with a median of about 11 and ranging up to 17. Children younger than age 5 years had CTs of about 6.5, with an upper limit of 12.