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At present (September 2021), the direct targets of the COVID-19 virus have been evidently clear. COVID-19 is causing the greatest threat to those of advanced age and with comorbidities. Despite this fact, there may be additional information gleaned from the accumulating stacks of clinical COVID-19 cases being aggregated around the world. A closer look at this data in sum may help researchers learn new insights about this fast spreading and quickly mutating virus. Moreover, learning about COVID-19 and its patterns may help scientists formulate better treatments and more effective vaccines.
Researchers—from Buckingham Browne and Nichols School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Biotein—conducted a new study in an effort to decipher clinical COVID-19 data from multiple countries. Their aim was to learn additional information about the impact of COVID-19 across all age distributions, including childhood. The team wrote a trending research paper that was published by Aging (Aging-US) in August 2021, and entitled, “COVID-19 mortality rate in children is U-shaped.”
Of note, one of the four authors of this research paper is the first author (and prolific teenager) named Nina Khera. This young student is merely 15 years old and already a longevity researcher interested in preventing age-related diseases, including those related to brain aging and COVID-19. Khera is also the co-founder of a Canadian biotech company called Biotein.
To begin, the researchers parsed through COVID-19 mortality data from the United States, United Kingdom, and from Spain. Age quickly emerged as an important risk factor for COVID-19 mortality, from birth until the end of life. All countries examined showed an age-dependent U-shaped pattern. Data showed that the COVID-19 mortality rate in newborns and infants is typically as high as in 20-year-olds. Generally, the lowest rate of COVID-19 mortality was observed in children between the ages of three and 10.
This U-shaped mortality curve is not uncommon in other diseases or even in all-cause mortality distributions. The researchers pointed out that among children in the United States, influenza and pneumonia both show a U-shaped pattern that parallel all-cause mortality rates. Interestingly, COVID-19 mortality shows the lowest rate in childhood compared to other related diseases. The authors emphasize that this window of protection from COVID-19 in childhood is divergent from pneumonia and influenza disease patterns.
“However, the COVID-19 mortality rate was disproportionally low in children under 12 (Figure 3A), suggesting a better protection against severe COVID-19 at the young ages compared to the two other infectious diseases. This could also be seen by the proportion of total deaths, which spiked at very early ages for pneumonia and influenza, but not for COVID-19 (Figure 3B).”
The data also confirmed that children exhibit lower rates of severe symptoms compared to those symptoms experienced by adults. Another important point that the authors made was that the data suggests that the perinatal period before or after birth may be more dangerous than later childhood. In sum, the data uncovered disease-specific, pronounced age-related patterns that suggest the factors which affect biological age may also influence COVID-19 infection and severity.
“Although it is commonly believed that children are completely spared of COVID-19, our findings suggest that newborns and children during their first year of life exhibit a slightly elevated COVID-19 risk. Moreover, although it was not analyzed in this study, fetal mortality rate may be expected to be even higher.”
The authors were forthcoming about limitations of their study. Given the novelty of the disease, the COVID-19 data collected for children was relatively limited. They also specified that they did not take into account the children’s gender, ethnicity, overall health, or long-term wellness.
“Finally, our study suggests the observed age-related patterns of COVID-19 susceptibility in children should be considered when developing COVID-19 regulations.”
Click here to read the full research paper, published by Aging.
Aging is an open-access journal that publishes research papers monthly in all fields of aging research and other topics. These papers are available to read at no cost to readers on Aging-us.com. Open-access journals offer information that has the potential to benefit our societies from the inside out and may be shared with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and other researchers, far and wide.
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