Why Aren’t Young Children Getting Sick w/ Covid-19 (Pedcast)

Children have a much lower infection risk with SARS-CoV-2 than older individuals. What is science telling us is the reason?


Photo Compliments of Pixabay

Musical Introduction

Why Aren’t Children Getting Infected?

One of the great mysteries regarding Covid-19 infections is why are children less likely to get infected and severely ill from SARS-CoV-2 than older people? If we understood why children are mostly spared sickness during the pandemic, we might understand something fundamental about the virus’s biology. As you might expect, theories abound. Some experts think children are mostly protected because they have such frequent  encounters with ordinary corona viruses, the ones that cause the common cold and this frequent experience protects them from their cousin, SARS-CoV-2. . Other virologists surmise that a child’s immune system is immature and therefore doesn’t react as violently as an adult’s when Covid-19 strikes. But recent research in JAMA steers our thinking in another direction. By now, you have undoubtedly seen pictures of the SARS-CoV-2 virus covered with its ominous spikes and protein tips. We know that the end of the spikes contains a protein that allows the virus to gain entry into the nasal  lining cells. The spikes plow their way into the cells by attaching to a receptor called the ACE-2 receptor. No entry into these cells, no viral infection and no illness. We all have these ACE-2 receptors but researchers just discovered that children have far fewer ACE-2 receptors than older individuals. In fact, the number of ACE-2 receptors gradually increase with age, making older people more likely to get so sick with Covid-19. Children likely touch the virus more often than teens, adults, and the elderly, but are more protected from developing severe illness because the virus has more difficulty gaining entry into the child’s nose due to the child’s paucity of ACE-2 receptors. Mystery solved? Well, perhaps?

What Does All This Mean?

The age dependent ACE-2 discovery seems to explain why we are not seeing large outbreaks in schools here or abroad and bodes well for schools reopening in the fall, especially for daycare and elementary aged children-the youngest among us. The opening of residential universities for older teens and young adults may be another story however for the reasons I just cited.  It is fortunate that not only are young children unlikely to have severe illness when they encounter SARS-CoV-2, but they are also unlikely to get infected and spread the illness to their older relatives. This is one time it looks like we can’t blame little Johnny or Janie for making others in their community sick… at least according to what we know today.


This is Dr. Paul Smolen, broadcasting from studio 1E in Charlotte, hoping you can keep those Covid-19 spikes, far away from your little tikes. Until Next time.