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This is why Children can naturally suppress severe coronavirus unlike adults: Study

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Recent research led by experts from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute reveals a unique immune response mechanism of children that helps in protecting them against the severity of COVID-19

All our way throughout the pandemic we have been seemingly hearing and believing that children are more vulnerable to catch a coronavirus infection owing to their weak biological build-up, and a sensitive immune system. But a recent study published in Nature Communications has knocked down all such myths.

A study conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI)  found that specialized cells in a child’s immune system are effective and quick in attacking the SARS-COV-2, thus shielding them from higher levels of infection.

Several instances have been found where the levels and nature of coronavirus infection in children were subtle as compared to the adults.  Dr Melanie Neeland who is an expert at MCRI revealed the scientific reason behind this while explaining that the underlying immune mechanisms were responsible for mild infection of the coronavirus among children.

“Understanding the underlying age-related differences in the severity of COVID-19 will provide important insights and opportunities for prevention and treatment, both for COVID-19 and possible future pandemics,” she said.

The research was conducted by studying the blood samples of 48 children and 70 adults. These were from 28 households across Melbourne, who were either already infected with the coronavirus, or were susceptible to such infection. The immune responses were recorded for a subsequent period of two months.

Out of a family of four (2 parents and 2 daughters), who had positive COVID-19 reports, the six and two-year-old daughters experienced only a mild runny nose. Whereas the adults had acute symptoms such as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, lack of smell and taste, and loss of appetite. The adults (parents) were able to recover only after a minimum duration of 15 days.

The results of the study concluded that children infected with COVID-19 have a strong inborn immune response mechanism towards the virus, in comparison with adults. She explained the children’s immune response saying that the child’s body released particular white blood cells (WBC) known as neutrophils, in response to the virus.  These cells help repair the damaged tissues and resolve the infection. This action also leads to a “reduction of first-responder immune cells such as monocytes, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells from the blood.”

“This suggests these infection-fighting immune cells are migrating to infection sites, quickly clearing the virus before it has a chance to really take hold,” she explained.

She also explained that the innate immune system is the first “line of defense” against the virus, and emphasized its importance in preventing high levels of COVID-19 infection in kids. Striking a difference between the immune systems of adults and children, she said: “Importantly, this immune reaction was not replicated among adults in the study.”

Another significant dimension of the study was that participants who were exposed to, but tested negative for COVID-19, including both children and adults,  showed “altered immune responses”. These participants were found to have produced a large number of neutrophils weeks after being exposed, thus protecting them against the disease.

The research concluded that by being infected with the coronavirus, children could build an innate immune response mechanism, putting an end to the replication process of the virus, thus suppressing it.

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