Sep 28, 2020 - Health

Why kids get less severe coronavirus infections

A child with a mask is seen on a scooter.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A new study suggests that the reason why children get less severe coronavirus infections than adults is because they have a different immune response, NYT reports.

What they're saying: "The bottom line is, yes, children do respond differently immunologically to this virus, and it seems to be protecting the kids," Betsy Herold, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who led the study, told the Times.

  • The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.

Details: The body has what's called an innate immune response when it encounters an unfamiliar pathogen, and this response is quicker and stronger in children than adults. That's because they're frequently exposed to new pathogens.

  • Adults, on the other hand, have built up more specialized immune responses over time to specific threats, and the innate system fades over time.
  • Since the coronavirus is new to everyone, this gives children an advantage.

Yes, but: Like many other studies on the virus, this one enrolled patients too late in the infection to really understand the innate immune system's immediate response, some experts said.

What we're watching: Children may eventually develop defenses against the virus that keeps them from ever experiencing the same level of infection severity as today's adults, if the virus becomes endemic.

  • "We will eventually age out of this virus," Michael Mina, a pediatric immunologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Epidemiology, told NYT.
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