WINNIPEG - A University of Manitoba research team is making waves around the world following a new study that suggests that children may not be as infectious with COVID-19 as adults.
The findings were made by over a dozen researchers across multiple specialties led by Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology, and Infectious Diseases Dr. Jared Bullard, and included samples from the National Microbiology Laboratory, headquartered in Winnipeg. The team analyzed specimens taken from 175 Manitoba children and 130 adults who had tested positive for COVID-19 to compare how infectious the cases were. While PCR tests only test for whether or not genetic material for the virus is present, the researchers took nasal swab cell cultures to measure the amount of the virus in each infected person, an indicator of how infectious they actually are.
The researchers say they found that samples from children were 50 per cent as likely to grow in cell culture, and ended up having a lot less of the virus, compared to those of adults. They concluded kids may not be able to spread COVID-19 to others as efficiently as they do other infections like the flu and the common cold.
The researchers say the findings have important implications, with Dr. Bullard proposing in the report that if younger children aren’t as capable of spreading the virus, in-person school instruction, daycare, and some extracurricular activities, with lower risk to teachers and staff, may be safer to resume than previously thought. “A better understanding of the relative contributions of children and adolescents to SARS-CoV-2 transmission when compared with adults is essential,” Dr. Bullard says. “This is particularly important given the increased likelihood of asymptomatic infection in this group.”
Dr. Bullard is also the Associate Medical Director at the Cadham Provincial Laboratory, and his previous research on diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was also published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information in June of last year.