Children Develop Long-lasting and Strong Immunity Against SARS-CoV-2

Researchers in the UK have conducted a study that may explain why children who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 do not generally develop severe disease. The team comprehensively assessed the convalescent humoral and cellular immune response among 92 children (aged 3-11 years; median age 7 years) and 155 adults (aged 20-71; median age 41 years) who participated in the SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in the schools (sKIDs) study. The researchers determined the participants’ serological responses against the viral spike protein, the spike receptor-binding domain (RBD), the spike N-terminal domain (NTD), and the nucleocapsid (N) protein that is essential for packaging the viral genome into new virions.

Around 475 children and 59% of adults were found to be seropositive. However, the mean antibody titres against all four proteins were higher among children, particularly those produced against NTD and RBD. The antibody titres were 2.3-fold and 1.7 fold higher for these domains. Next, the team compared the antibody titers generated against the HCoVs OC-43, HKU-1, NL-63 and 229E in SARS-CoV-2 seronegative and seropositive children and adults. This revealed a 1.2- to 1.4-fold increase in antibody titers against HCoVs among the seropositive versus seronegative adults, compared with a 1.5 to 2.3-fold increase among seropositive versus seronegative children.

Importantly, all children retained high humoral (antibody) immunity for at least 6 months after infection, while 7% of adults who were previously seropositive failed to show significant humoral responses after 6 months. Cellular immune responses were also detectable in 84% of children and 79% of adults at least 6 months post-infection. The magnitude of the spike-specific response remained higher among children than among adults.

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