Children and adults produce different types and amounts of antibodies in response to coronavirus, a new study has revealed.
Researchers from Columbia University say the findings could explain why children tend to experience less severe infection than adults.
Dr Matteo Porotto, who co-led the study, said: “In kids, the infectious course is much shorter and probably not as disseminated as in adults.
“Kids may clear this virus more efficiently than adults and they may not need a strong antibody immune response to get rid of it.”
In the study, the researchers analysed 47 children and 32 adults who had tested positive for coronavirus.
The analysis revealed that compared with adults, children produced fewer antibodies against the virus’ spike protein, and had less neutralising activity.
Dr Donna Farber, co-lead author of the study, explained: “There is a connection between the magnitude of your immune response and the magnitude of the infection: The more severe the infection, the more robust the immune response, because you need to have more immune cells and immune reactions to clear a higher dose of a pathogen.”
Meanwhile, children were also shown to produce fewer antibodies against a viral protein that’s only visible to the immune system after the virus infects human cells.
Dr Porotto said: “Because children clear the natural virus rapidly, they do not have a widespread infection and they do not need a strong antibody response.”
The findings suggest that children should respond well to vaccine.
Dr Farber added: “Even though children don’t produce neutralizing antibodies in response to a natural infection with SARS-CoV-2, vaccines are designed to generate a protective immune response in the absence of an infection.
“Children respond very well to vaccines, and I think they will develop good neutralizing antibody responses to a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, and they’ll probably be better protected than the adults.
“That said, very few vaccine studies are currently enrolling children and we will need this data to really understand how well the vaccines work in children.”