The new coronavirus and antibodies that fight it can be in children’s bodies at the same time, surprised researchers have found.
“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 Dr. Burak Bahar, director of laboratory informatics at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.
“This means children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected,” she added.
Bahar is lead author of a study that included more than 6,300 children who were tested for the new coronavirus and 215 patients who were tested for antibodies.
Of those 215 patients, 33 were tested for both the virus and antibodies. Nine had antibodies in their blood and later tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to findings published Sept. 3 in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The median time it took until the virus could no longer be detected was 25 days — meaning half took longer, half needed less time.
The median time for antibodies to appear was 18 days, and the median time to reach adequate levels of neutralizing antibodies was 36 days. Neutralizing antibodies potentially protect a person from re-infection.
The researchers also found that 6- to 15-year-olds took longer to clear the virus from their bodies (median: 32 days) than patients between 16 and 22 years old (median: 18 days). Girls age 6 to 15 took longer to clear the virus than boys (median of 44 days versus 25.5).
“The takeaway here is that we can’t let our guard down just because a child has antibodies or is no longer showing symptoms,” Bahar said. “The continued role of good hygiene and social distancing remains critical.”
The next phase of research will be to test if people with both the new coronavirus and antibodies can infect others. It’s also unknown if antibodies mean a person is immune, or how long antibodies and potential protection from reinfection last, Bahar said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on children/teens and the coronavirus.
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