Australian researchers believe they have solved one of the most enduring mysteries of the COVID pandemic: why children are less likely to get COVID and, if they do, experience less severe symptoms.
It turns out that children’s noses may be better at fighting COVID-19 than adults’.
dr. Kirsty Short of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland says this may be one of the reasons immune responses in children have been shown to be more effective against the virus.
“Children have a lower rate of COVID-19 infections and milder symptoms than adults, but the reasons for this are unknown,” she says.
“We have shown that the lining of the noses of children has a more pro-inflammatory response to the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 than the noses of adults.”
dr. Short and her colleagues exposed nasal mucosal cell samples from 23 healthy children and 15 healthy adults to the virus.
The results showed that it replicated less efficiently in the children’s nasal cells and there was an increased antiviral response.
“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, but the trend was clearly less pronounced in the case of Omicron.
Third boosters are left behind
Meanwhile, state and federal authorities are concerned that the number of Australians receiving their third dose of COVID-19 vaccine is lagging.
About 71.4 percent of those eligible, or more than 14.1 million people, have received a third dose so far.
But there are still more than 5.6 million to get their booster.
Queensland is the worst performing state, with 64.5 percent of eligible residents getting a third shot, while the ACT has the best coverage (79.9 percent).
The booster rate is 55 percent for Indigenous Australians nationally.
The concern stems from nearly 29,000 new virus cases recorded across the country on Saturday, along with 89 deaths.
Although it decreased daily over the past week, the number of virus patients in hospital care also remains just below 4,500, accounting for almost one in 12 hospital beds.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA
- Victoria: 5,114 cases, three deaths, 660 hospitalized with 40 in ICU
- NSW: 10,027 cases, 15 deaths, 2181 hospitalized with 57 in ICU