As per the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 2, infants less than a year old comprise 15 percent of pediatric COVID-19 cases in the United States. Five of these infants aged below twelve months old were admitted to the ICU, most of whom had preexisting medical conditions.
Through preliminary analysis, it was found that COVID-19 symptoms in children such as fever and cough were not present. While most children do not develop serious illnesses, the CDC suggests more stringent monitoring of suspected cases in children, especially infants with worrying medical conditions beforehand.
Caution must be exercised while interpreting this data since a lot of information remains missing, the CDC warned. In China, similarly, the children’s COVID-19 cases were less severe than adults, researchers observed between Jan. 16 to Feb. 8. Chinese researchers analyzed 2,135 pediatric patients with data provided by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and confirmed that even infants were prone to infection.
What Research Says Thus Far
A study published by JAMA on February 14, identified nine hospitalized infants between Dec. 8, 2019, and Feb. 6, 2020. Two infants showed positive results when nasopharyngeal swabs and real-time polymerase chain reaction testing were used to diagnose children. Luckily, diagnosis was given fast since it took about one to three days from admission to declare the results. One of the infants who tested positive had in fact no symptoms to report.
Among the nine infected infants, the age group was between a month to 11 months, of whom seven were female infants. All the infants had one infected family member, seven of whom were living in Wuhan or had family who paid a visit to Wuhan recently. From them, however, one infant had no direct contact with anyone from Wuhan, while the information of the location was unavailable about the last infant particularly.
No complications were observed in all the infants and ventilation and intensive care was not required. Fever was reported by four infants and two displayed mild upper respiratory tract symptoms, while the symptoms are unavailable on the other remaining patients.
In another study published March 24 in JAMA, six infants born to mothers with COVID-19 were studied following the previous clinical trial. Serological testing for SARS-CoV-2 to measure IgG and IgM antibodies as part of a new protocol was introduced by the Chinese government on March 4. A study that observed whether mothers transmitted the virus to the fetuses was initiated in China afterwards.
While all six mothers part of the study had confirmed COVID-19 during pregnancy, none of their infant children tested positive post childbirth. These infected mothers had cesarean deliveries in the third trimester, where medical personnel wore suits and double masks and the mothers wore masks too. Furthermore, the children were isolated post-delivery, while the birth itself took place in negative-pressure isolation rooms.
In neonatal blood sera samples of these six plants, scientists observed that antibodies had multiplied, which is the typical immune response to an infection.“The IgG concentrations were elevated in 5 infants. IgG is passively transferred across the placenta from mother to fetus beginning at the end of the second trimester and reaches high levels at the time of birth,” the paper explained.
“However, IgM, which was detected in 2 infants, is not usually transferred from mother to fetus because of its larger macromolecular structure,” the paper stated further. Antibodies in the blood indicated that the body was fighting off an infection that researchers possibly believe is COVID-19. Though not all the infants showed positive results for COVID-19, the presence of antibodies was a sign that they were healthy and recovering.
In another study, a baby born prematurely by nine weeks to a mother with COVID-19 needed resuscitation, non-invasive ventilation, caffeine supplements and antibiotic medication for two weeks in order to recover completely. There is concern among researchers who fear that asymptomatic children could transmit the infection to people. Hence, isolating and monitoring both infected mothers and newborns is needed to safeguard health.