A study published on Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics claims that children under five years old have between 10 to 100 times greater levels of coronavirus' genetic material in their noses compared to older kids and adults.
This could imply that children play an important role in the transmission of COVID-19 within communities.
Children Are Carrying 10 to 100 Times Higher Levels of Coronavirus
The study was conducted in the early months of the pandemic between March 23 and April 27. The researchers carried out nasal swab tests among 145 of mild to moderate cases of coronavirus patients in Chicago within one week of the onset of the symptoms.
The patients were categorized into three groups based on their age: first groups are those below five years old; the second group is those five to 17 years old, and the third group is those 18 to 65 years old.
There are 46 children in the first group, 51 children in the second group, and 48 adults in the third group.
Led by Taylor Heald-Sargent of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, the researchers observed a 10- to 100-fold higher levels of the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children.
Moreover, a recent lab study had demonstrated that if there is a higher level of viral genetic material was present, then there will be more infectious virus that could grow.
Additionally, another study also showed that children are more likely to spread the disease if they have high viral loads of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
"Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population," the researchers wrote.
They concluded that the "behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and daycare settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased."
Are children more likely to fall ill with coronavirus?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that 1.7 percent of the cases in the US between February 12 and April 12 were in children. This statistic holds true to other countries as well, such as Italy and China, both who experienced large outbreaks.
Moreover, hospitalization of children with COVID-19 is much lower than adults.
The results of the new study are at odds with the current studies by other health authorities who said that young children are less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus and that they do not spread it too much to other people.
However, there are only a few research on the topic so far. Further studies are needed to confirm this claim.
For example, a study in South Korea found that children from 10 to 19 years old and young adults can transmit COVID-19 within their homes as much as adults. But children under the age of nine spread the virus at a much lower rate.