A research team from the Berlin Charité has found out why children put up with Covid-19 so well. The results could also help adults and patients at risk.
Berlin – At the very beginning of the crisis, when the new type of coronavirus was really still completely new, researchers already recognized the special role of children in the pandemic: They seemed to cope with an infection with Covid-19 much better than adults, especially better than the very old and previously ill . Now one of the reasons seems to be clear. The new findings could also help the elderly.
A team of researchers from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité Berlin (BIH) examined a total of 268,745 cells in the nasal mucosa of 42 children and 44 adults, compared them and published the results in a study. The finding: The child’s immune system is in the upper respiratory tract in a constant watchful position and much more active than in adults.
Corona: Children have more vigilant noses than adults
With the samples obtained, the researchers carried out so-called single-cell transcriptome analyzes. They compared the results from the children’s noses with samples from infected and non-infected adults. “We have found that the nasal mucous membrane cells in children are much more vigilant, even before the virus even penetrates the nose,” says Irina Lehmann, head of the Molecular Epidemiology Group at the BIH dem mirrors. You couldn’t have found that in the adult samples, she explains.
The big difference between children and adults is in the nose: even before a virus contact, the immune and epithelial cells of the nasal mucosa of children are active and constantly on high alert. This means that the immune system immediately recognizes pathogens and immediately starts its defense. According to a British study, if children fall ill with the coronavirus, they are healthy again after an average of six days. The adult subjects initiated the immune defense much more slowly.
Corona: Children fight the virus before it gets into the respiratory tract
According to Irina Lehmann from the Charité, the innate early warning system in children is so strong that their immune system often manages to fight off Sars-CoV-2 before it gets into the deeper airways. Adults, on the other hand, are usually “taken by surprise” by a corona infection, which means that the pathogen can multiply massively in the cells, explains Lehmann.
The reason for the rapid defense reaction: Children do not yet have an acquired immune system that is only built up through contact with various viruses or bacteria. The more pronounced the innate immune system is, which is apparently pre-activated and therefore acts at lightning speed. In old age the tables turn: the acquired immune system becomes stronger, the alertness of the innate decreases.
Corona: Why the immune system of children can also help adults
The results of the Charité study could also have a positive effect on adults: One could now also think about whether such an “anti-virus response” could be initiated in a targeted manner before an infection, for example to protect high-risk patients from a serious illness , explains Lehmann mirrors. “We have learned from this study that there are obviously not only risk factors for severe Covid-19 courses, but also protective factors.”