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Study: Any COVID-19 infection in children leaves strong antibody levels

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HealthDay News
A child wears a face mask to prevent spread of COVID-19 in New York City in November 2020. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A child wears a face mask to prevent spread of COVID-19 in New York City in November 2020. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Even a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19 triggers a strong antibody response in children and teens, new research shows.

"These findings are encouraging, especially because we cannot yet vaccinate children under the age of 12 against the virus," said study co-lead author Jillian Hurst, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

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"The study shows that children who've had mild infections or even those who did not have any symptoms, develop an immune response that will likely provide some protection against future infections," Hurst said in a university news release.

She and her colleagues measured antibody response in 69 young patients, aged 2 months to 21 years, with asymptomatic and mild symptomatic COVID-19 infection. The median age was 11.5 years, and 51% were female.

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Antibody response in the children did not differ based on the presence of symptoms, and antibodies against the coronavirus were still present in most of participants up to four months after infection.

The researchers also found that regardless of age, the children's antibody levels were the same or slightly higher than adults at two and four months after infection, according to the study published recently in the journal JCI Insight.

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The findings suggest that giving COVID-19 vaccines to young children could lead to a level of antibody protection that's similar to or greater than that of adults, the researchers noted.

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"Most studies of the immune responses of children to [COVID-19] have focused on patients hospitalized for severe COVID-19 or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children [MIS-C], or have assessed immunity only during acute infection," said study senior author Dr. Genevieve Fouda, an associate professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke.

"Our study provides important information that [COVID-19]-specific immune responses, regardless of disease severity, may decline over time more slowly in children and adolescents," Fouda said in the release.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on COVID-19.

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