Beginning to understand the anomaly of children rarely experiencing severe COVID-19

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

In general, adults have an advantage over many infectious diseases as their immune systems are trained to deal with similar pathogens through previous infection or vaccination. However, the anomaly and novelty of SARS-CoV-2 changed the dynamics, with children rarely experiencing severe COVID. Scientists think innate immunity might be the key to better protecting children and worry that the Delta variant might change this dynamic.

The innate immune response is a general, non-specific response consisting of physical, chemical, and cellular defenses against anything identified as foreign or non-self. This response is activated to immediately prevent the spread and movement of foreign pathogens in the body. Because of the “revved-up and ready-to-go” innate response in children, they seem to be avoiding getting severe COVID despite getting infected with the virus.

Although the exact molecular mechanism behind this anomaly is still emerging, studies – including the one directly measuring the innate immune response in children – showed higher levels of signaling proteins such as interferons and interleukins, and higher expression of the genes that code for such proteins. This anomalous but beneficial phenomenon in children seems to be protecting them even against the dominant Delta variant.

Learn more about the current research here.