Children with COVID-19 can have virus, antibodies simultaneously – study

The findings of the study are critical, as while there is plenty of emerging data regarding transmission and recovery time in adult patients, there is less data regarding pediatric patients.

Israelis return to school amid coronavirus concerns, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Israelis return to school amid coronavirus concerns, September 1, 2020
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Possessing antibodies against the coronavirus may not be a guarantee that a patient is free of the virus and, by extension, not contagious. A new scientific study published Thursday showed that young patients are able to possess antibodies while still being contagious carriers, Medicalxpress reported.
The discovery, published in the academic publication Journal of Pediatrics by researchers at Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC, adds a further layer of complexity into treating COVID-19 in pediatric patients. In particular, it rewrites established understanding of detecting whether a patient is still contagious, which is typically done through testing for antibodies.
"With most viruses, when you start to detect antibodies, you won't detect the virus anymore. But with COVID-19, we're seeing both," explained the study's lead author Dr. Burak Bahar, Medicalxpress reported.
"This means children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected."
The research was done by using a retrospective analysis of 6,369 pediatric COVID-19 patients, who the hospital had treated between March 13 and June 21. And it was here that researchers found that some patients were confirmed to have COVID-19 antibodies in their blood, while still testing positive for the virus.
On average, the time it takes the virus to be cleared from the body for pediatric patients was around 25 days. It also took an average of 18 days for antibodies to begin showing up in the blood, and a total average of 36 days for the presence of neutralizing antibodies – which are used to prevent re-infection – to be at an adequate level.
The study also examined how long it took pediatric patients to become clear of COVID-19. Patients between the ages of 16 and 22 recovered in 18 days on average, while patients between the ages of six and 15 took an average of 32 days. In total,  the average recovery time for male patients was 25.5 days, compared to female patients who had an average recovery time of 44 days.
The findings of the study are critical, as while there is plenty of emerging data regarding transmission and recovery time in adult patients, there is considerably less data regarding pediatric patients.
Bahar, who is the hospital's laboratory informatics director, that the findings indicate that detecting antibodies should not be a sign that infection has passed.
"The takeaway here is that we can't let our guard down just because a child has antibodies or is no longer showing symptoms," she explained.
"The continued role of good hygiene and social distancing remains critical."
Following these findings, Bahar's next research will be testing if the virus can still be transmitted when antibodies are also present, and to further understand if antibodies correlate with immunity, and if so, for how long.


Tags Antibodies