Urgent investigations into spread of new Covid strain amongst Children
Scientists are urgently investigating suggestions that the new variant of coronavirus spreads more easily amongst children after claims from the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group (Nervtag).
If proven, this could reportedly account for “a significant proportion” of the increase in transmission.
Earlier strains of coronavirus found it harder to infect children than adults, meaning children were less susceptible to transmitting the virus.
One theory is that children have fewer of the “doorways” (the ACE2 receptor) the virus uses to enter our body.
Prof Wendy Barclay from Nervtag said the variant of the virus appeared to be making it easier to walk through the doorways that were there.
“This could be putting children on a more level playing field with adults as the virus was less inhibited in children”.
Prof Barclay added:
“Therefore, children are equally susceptible, perhaps, to this virus as adults, and therefore given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more children being infected”.
Work to understand the new variant is taking place at lightning speed and there is still much uncertainty, but there are no suggestions the new strain of coronavirus is a greater risk to children’s health.
According to Prof Neil Ferguson from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, who is also a member of Nervtag, early analysis of how and where it is spreading has also given “hints that it has a higher propensity to infect children”.
He stressed the link was still being investigated and was not yet proven.
“If it were true, then this might explain a significant proportion, maybe even the majority, of the transmission increase seen”.
Professor Ferguson later said he expected the number of infections to fall as schools closed and people hunkered down for Christmas.
However, on Monday, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said he wanted to open schools in January if possible.