Pediatrics / Covid-19: after infection, children more protected than adults
Covid-19 in children: a study conducted in Italy by the University of Padua and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie with the Hospital of Padua, Penta and Bambino Gesù, shows that children with mild forms of the disease develop a greater and more durable antibody response than adults
Among people with mild forms of COVID-19, asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, the antibody response of children against the SARS-CoV-2 virus is greater and more durable than that of adults
In particular, children aged 0-3 years are able to develop neutralizing antibody titers 7-8 times higher than those observed in the adult population, up to 7-8 months after infection.
These are the results of an observational study conducted by researchers at the University of Padua and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, in collaboration with the Azienda Ospedaliera di Padova, the Fondazione Penta ONLUS and the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù. The research has just been published in the scientific journal Paediatrics.
Covid-19 in children: clinical studies reported in the literature show that the presence of high antibody titers reduces the probability of contracting the disease again
Therefore, the superior pediatric antibody response described by the researchers makes plausible the hypothesis that children are better protected than adults in the event of a second exposure to the virus.
The study involved 57 families affected by COVID 19 during the first wave of the pandemic and assisted by the Hospital-University of Padua, as part of the long-term follow-up program for families.
The program was born from the collaboration between the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, the Department of Surgical Oncological and Gastroenterological Sciences (Prof. Anita de Rossi) and the Department of Medicine (Prof. Mario Plebani).
The outpatient clinic is very active and currently follows about 300 families in close collaboration with family pediatricians in the Veneto region.
The quantification of neutralizing antibodies was made possible thanks to an experimental test developed by the virologists of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie.
Data analysis was carried out by researchers from the Clinical Immunology and Vaccinology area of the Bambino Gesù, led by Prof. Paolo Palma.
“Knowing that children develop antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus for many months is an evidence of absolute importance, given that the use of the vaccine is for now limited to people over 12 years.
The application of vaccination in pediatric settings will depend on a full understanding of the mechanisms underlying the immune response in children and on a proper communication of scientific data to the competent authorities and the community.
However, we must remember that, although the antibody response in children is more powerful and durable than we imagined, it is not sufficient on its own to ensure full protection from Covid-19
This is why it is important to continue our studies looking at the role of cell-mediated immunity,” explains Carlo Giaquinto, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Padua, President of the Penta Onlus Foundation and coordinator of the study.
“In the second half of 2021, the EMA (European Medicines Agency) is expected to pronounce on the safety and efficacy of current vaccines in very young (2-5 years) and young (6-11 years) subjects.
Our data will be of fundamental importance to define modalities and timing of vaccination in pediatric populations previously exposed to the virus,” says Francesco Bonfante, virologist of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie and co-author of the article.
“In addition,” adds Bonfante, “the current EU Digital COVID Certificate will be valid for 6 months for all unvaccinated individuals cured of COVID-19, regardless of age.
Our research lays the groundwork for an evaluation of extending the validity of the Certificate for pediatric populations younger than 6 years of age.”
The results of the study were supported in part by the European projects ORCHESTRA (HORIZON 2020, no. 101016167) and RECOVER (HORIZON 2020 no. 101003589) and financially supported by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo, COVID-19 Research Projects.