Children and adolescents who had mild to asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 were found to have robust antibody responses for up to four months after infection, according to a study of 69 children tested at Duke Health.
The study, which appeared in the journal JCI Insight, found that the children and adolescents who had previously had COVID-19 developed antibody responses capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Furthermore, these responses were similar or superior to those observed in adults.
“These findings are encouraging, especially since we can’t vaccinate children under 12 against the virus yet,” said co-lead author Jillian Hurst, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine. “The study shows that children who have had mild infections or even those who had no symptoms develop an immune response that is likely to provide some protection against future infections.”
The researchers — including senior authors Genevieve Fouda, MD, Ph.D., associate professor in the departments of pediatrics and molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine and Matthew Kelly, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, and co- lead author Carolina Garrido, Ph.D., of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute – evaluated SARS-CoV-2 specific immune responses in 69 children and adolescents, ranging in age from 2 months to 21 years old. The median age of the participants was 11.5 years and 51% were female.
The researchers measured the antibody response in children and adolescents with asymptomatic and mild symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and found that the antibody response did not differ based on the presence of symptoms, and SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies remained detectable in most of participants up to four months after infection.
The researchers also compared the immune responses of the children to those of adults. They found that all children, regardless of age group, had equivalent or slightly higher levels of antibodies than adults at two months and four months after an acute infection.
“Most studies of children’s immune response to SARS-CoV-2 have focused on patients hospitalized for severe COVID-19 or childhood multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), or assessed immunity alone. during acute infection,” said Fouda. said. “Our study provides important information that SARS-CoV-2 specific immune responses, regardless of disease severity, may decline more slowly over time in children and adolescents.”
The study’s authors said the findings suggest that vaccinating young children against COVID-19 may also provide a similar or higher degree of protection than that of adults.
Reference: Garrido C, Hurst JH, Lorang CG, et al. Asymptomatic or mild symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection elicits durable neutralizing antibody responses in children and adolescents. JCI Insight. 2021. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.150909
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