Nav: Home

Children's immune response more effective against COVID-19

September 22, 2020

Children and adults exhibit distinct immune system responses to infection by the virus that causes COVID-19, a finding that helps explain why COVID-19 outcomes tend to be much worse in adults, researchers from Yale and Albert Einstein College of Medicine report Sept. 18 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A widespread and dangerous immune response to the virus has been linked to acute respiratory distress syndrome, the need for ventilation, and increased mortality in adults with COVID-19. These outcomes are less common in children, which has led to speculation that immune system response to the virus is somehow suppressed. But the new study, which examined serum and cell samples obtained from pediatric and adult patients diagnosed with COVID-19, found that children actually express higher levels of two specific immune system molecules. The researchers believe this may contribute to the better outcomes.

"To our surprise, we found these particular serum cytokines were at higher levels in children than adults," said Kevan Herold, the C.N.H. Long Professor of Immunology and Internal Medicine at Yale and co-senior author of the paper.

Intriguingly, the analysis also showed that certain types of antibody responses thought to be protective were actually higher in adults, including those with severe cases, than in children, the research found.

Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, scientists have observed that children infected with the virus tend to fare much better than adults. To determine why that is, Herold, along with his spouse, Betsy Herold, the co-senior author and a professor of pediatrics and microbiology-immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, decided to study blood and cell samples collected from patients of different ages who were admitted with COVID-19 symptoms to the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Specifically, they looked for variations in the types of immune system responses in patients who experienced different health outcomes from the novel coronavirus. The subjects also included children and adolescents diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, a rare complication of COVID-19 infection in young people that is associated with a variety of severe health complications.

They found that levels of two immune system molecules -- interleukin 17A (IL-17A), which helps mobilize immune system response during early infection, and interferon gamma (INF-?), which combats viral replication -- were strongly linked to the age of the patients. The younger the patient, the higher the levels of IL-17A and INF-?, the analysis showed.

These two molecules are part of the innate immune system, a more primitive, non-specific type of response activated early after infection, Kevan Herold noted. Conversely, the adults showed a more vigorous adaptive immune system response including higher neutralizing antibody levels, which record signatures of pathogens and target them for elimination.

They also found that children with rare cases of MIS-C also have high levels of IL-17A and INF-?, but seldom exhibit severe damage to lung tissue that characterizes severe adult cases. These children, however, share other immune response signatures linked to more severe adult cases. The source of the IL-17A and INF-? molecules remain unknown, but its identification may shed light on cells that can be targeted to prevent severe effects from COVID-19.

Boosting certain types of immune responses may be beneficial to patients, the authors theorize.

"The suggestion is that kids have a more robust, earlier innate immune response to the virus, which may protect them from progressing to severe pulmonary disease," Betsy Herold said.
-end-


Yale University

Related Infection Articles:

Halving the risk of infection following surgery
New analysis by the University of Leeds and the University of Bern of more than 14,000 operations has found that using alcoholic chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) halves the risk of infection in certain types of surgery when compared to the more commonly used povidone-iodine (PVI).
How plants shut the door on infection
A new study by an international team including University of Maryland scientists has discovered the key calcium channel responsible for closing plant pores as an immune response to pathogen exposure.
Sensing infection, suppressing regeneration
UIC researchers describe an enzyme that blocks the ability of blood vessel cells to self-heal.
Boost to lung immunity following infection
The strength of the immune system in response to respiratory infections is constantly changing, depending on the history of previous, unrelated infections, according to new research from the Crick.
Is infection after surgery associated with increased long-term risk of infection, death?
Whether experiencing an infection within the first 30 days after surgery is associated with an increased risk of another infection and death within one year was the focus of this observational study that included about 660,000 veterans who underwent major surgery.
Revealed: How E. coli knows how to cause the worst possible infection
The discovery could one day let doctors prevent the infection by allowing E. coli to pass harmlessly through the body.
UK study shows most patients with suspected urinary tract infection and treated with antibiotics actually lack evidence of this infection
New research presented at this week's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, Netherlands (April 13-16, 2019) shows that only one third of patients that enter the emergency department with suspected urinary tract infection (UTI) actually have evidence of this infection, yet almost all are treated with antibiotics, unnecessarily driving the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
Bacteria in urine doesn't always indicate infection
Doctors should think carefully before testing patients for a urinary tract infection (UTI) to avoid over-diagnosis and unnecessary antibiotic treatment, according to updated asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Subsidies for infection control to healthcare institutions help reduce infection levels
Researchers compared three types of infection control subsidies and found that under a limited budget, a dollar-for-dollar matching subsidy, in which policymakers match hospital spending for infection control measures, was the most effective at reducing the number of hospital-acquired infections.
Dengue virus infection may cause severe outcomes following Zika virus infection during pregnancy
This study is the first to report a possible mechanism for the enhancement of Zika virus progression during pregnancy in an animal model.
More Infection News and Infection Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.