What role do children play in the infection process in Covid-19? This is one of the most controversial questions and discussions in the pandemic. Because even if children are significantly less likely to get seriously ill with Corona (which does happen, as two cases from Lower Saxony currently show) – it is disputed whether they can multiply and spread the virus without showing symptoms themselves. While data from Bavaria showed that more children than expected had formed antibodies against the Sars coronavirus-2, a study from Baden-Württemberg now published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics shows that the proportion of those with antibodies against Sars-CoV was among the parents -2 twice as high as for children.
Baden-Württemberg: Badly affected by the first corona wave
Children – that is undisputed – unfortunately in a special way under the lockdown. Those who are supposed to learn social interaction and teaching material in daycare and school will have experienced at least two very restricted school years by the end of the pandemic. Most contacts with people of the same age were forbidden during this period. This is precisely why researchers wanted to understand early on: How does the infection process in children work? So far, there is little data on families where contacts are particularly close.
The state of Baden-Württemberg therefore initiated a study in spring 2020 to examine children with their parents for traces of the new coronavirus. Between April 22 and May 15, a total of 2,500 couples, each with one parent and one child between the ages of one and ten years, were examined under the direction of doctors at the Ulm University Hospital. By this time, the first corona wave had largely subsided, although the second most cases had occurred in southwest Germany with around 337 sick people per 100,000 inhabitants.
Researcher: Children are not drivers of the pandemic
All participants were tested on the one hand for an acute infection using a PCR test and on the other hand with highly specific ELISA tests for antibodies that are supposed to indicate a previous infection. It was found that only two participants, one parent-child pair had a positive PCR test.
The antibody tests produced a positive test result in 48 of 2,482 parents (1.9 percent). For children, this proportion was only half as large (22 of 2,482 children, 0.9 percent). The analysis of families in which at least one relative had antibodies against corona showed that the combination of one parent has antibodies, but the child does not, occurred four times more often than the other way around. The analysis of the antibodies themselves showed that 94.3 percent of those who had IgG antibodies also had antibodies that neutralized the virus.
Researchers conclude: Children were not the drivers of the pandemic in Baden-Württemberg, at least during the observation period.