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Kids’ noses can better fight COVID-19

child covid

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 public domain

Research led by the University of Queensland has found that the mucous membrane of children’s noses is better at inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infections than that of adults.

dr. Kirsty Short of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences said this could be one reason why children’s immune responses have so far been shown to be more effective at avoiding and fighting COVID-19.

“Children have a lower rate of COVID-19 infections and milder symptoms than adults, but the reasons for this are unknown,” said Dr. short.

“We have shown that the mucous membrane of the noses of children has a more pro-inflammatory response to the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 than the noses of adults.

“But we found that it’s a different ball game when it comes to the Omicron variant.”

The research team exposed the nasal mucosal cell samples from 23 healthy children and 15 healthy adults to SARS-CoV-2.

The results showed that the virus replicated less efficiently in the children’s nasal cells, as well as an increased antiviral response.

dr. Short said there were a number of theories as to why.

“It could be an adaptation to the heightened threat of ‘foreign invaders’ such as viruses or bacteria seen in childhood,” she said.

“It is also possible that increased exposure to these threats in childhood ‘trains’ the nasal mucosa in children to mount a stronger pro-inflammatory response.

“Or alternatively, metabolic differences between children and adults may alter the way virus-fighting genes express themselves.”

The researchers found that the Delta COVID-19 variant replicated significantly less quickly in the nasal cells of children than in adults.

But the trend was clearly less pronounced in the case of Omicron.

Taken together, it shows that children’s nasal mucosa supports lower infection and replication of ancestral SARS-CoV-2, but this may change as the virus evolves,” said Dr. short.

“Future clinical studies will be needed to validate these preliminary findings in a larger population and to determine the role of other factors, such as antibodies, in protecting children against SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The research was published in PLOS Biology.


Children’s nasal mucosa may protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection


More information:
Yanshan Zhu et al, Ancestral SARS-CoV-2, but not Omicron, replicates less efficiently in primary pediatric nasal epithelial cells, PLOS Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001728

Provided by the University of Queensland


Quote: Kids’ Noses Can Better Fight COVID-19 (2022, Aug 4), retrieved Aug 4, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-kids-noses-covid-.html

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