Why the Covid-19 death rate is lower in children

Last Updated 09 August 2020, 01:56 IST

The death rate among Covid-19 positive children has been way below other age groups, including those in the prime of their life.

So far, the state has recorded a mere seven deaths in the 0-10 age group and 15 among those aged between 10 and 20.

Paediatricians attribute the low mortality rate to the low level of protein ACE-2 found on the cell surface in adults that acts as the receptor for SARS-CoV-2 and allows the virus to infect the cell.

“The virus load is less in children,” said Dr Bhaskar Shenoy, a paediatrician for 32 years who has treated 20 Covid patients at Old Airport Road’s Manipal Hospital since the beginning of the pandemic, including Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar’s teenage daughter.

“When the virus enters the body, it latches on to the ACE-2 receptor, which is less in children. That’s why mortality among children is less,” he explained.

Dr Shenoy continued: “We have treated pediatric Covid cases from babies who are six months to 15-year-old patients. Clinical recovery is fast in that age group. Symptoms like fever come down in three to four days and they test negative in a week. They are mostly asymptomatic carriers.”

Dr Raghunandan B G, the paediatrician at Malleswaram’s KC General Hospital, said children also have a stronger immune system.

Strong immune system

“The thymus gland will persist till the age of five and produces T-lymphocytes that help fight the virus,” he said. “T-lymphocytes are produced until the age of 15.”

The doctor also said children have been shielded from mass gatherings like school, tuition centres, and public play areas since the pandemic began.

Dr Rajath Athreya, a consultant paediatrician and lead neonatologist at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, said children above the age of one had lower mortality globally unless they have pre-existing conditions.

“The ACE-2 receptors in the airways and lungs are less developed so the virus cannot drop anchor,” Dr Athreya said.

He added that there are also theories that BCG (tuberculosis) vaccine and MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine have some protective effects. “We have seen the effects in yellow fever. Since the immune system is dealing with unrelated viruses, studies are going on about the effect of these vaccines on SARS-CoV-2,” he said.

(Published 08 August 2020, 19:17 IST)

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