The protective role of nasal cells against Covid infection in children

A recent study by researchers at University College London and the Wellcome Sanger Institute has found that nasal cells of young and elderly individuals respond differently to the Covid virus, shedding light on why children tend to have milder symptoms than adults. The study, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, focused on the early effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on nasal epithelial cells.

After three days of infection, the nasal epithelial cells of children were found to respond quickly to the Covid virus by increasing interferon, the body’s first line of antiviral defense. This rapid response helped restrict viral replication in children. However, as individuals age, this early anti-viral effect becomes less pronounced, making elderly individuals more susceptible to the virus.

Dr. Claire Smith, Associate Professor at UCL, highlighted the significance of the research, stating, “Our research reveals how the type of cells we have in our nose changes with age, and how this affects our ability to combat SARS-CoV-2 infection.” The study also noted that elderly individuals not only produced more infectious virus particles but also experienced increased cell shedding and damage in response to the virus.

The study further emphasized the importance of developing age-specific antiviral treatments, especially for the elderly who are at higher risk of severe Covid-19. While children infected with SARS-CoV-2 rarely progress to respiratory failure, the risk of mortality in infected individuals over the age of 85 remains high, despite vaccination and improving treatment options. This research could potentially aid in the development of more effective treatments tailored to different age groups.


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