Connect with us


The Latest on Kids’ Antibodies

A study published Thursday found that children infected with the coronavirus produce fewer and weaker antibodies than adults.

Although that finding sounds scary, it actually may help answer longstanding questions about why children have a different experience with the virus than adults.

“We know that kids are much less likely to get sick from the coronavirus,” said Apoorva Mandavilli, who covered the study. “This study says they produce a less robust immune response to the virus, which, paradoxically, may be a good thing.”

There are three possible reasons:

First, fewer antibodies may indicate that children were sick for a shorter period of time. (Generally, the longer you are sick, the more antibodies you produce.) Their weaker antibodies may indicate that children vanquish the virus before it has had a chance to wreak havoc in their bodies.

Second, fewer antibodies may also explain why children seem to transmit the virus less efficiently. If they have fewer antibodies, it may mean that they have had lower levels of the virus.

“Having a ton of antibody isn’t necessarily a marker of a good thing,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “It usually means that something went wrong early in the response.”

Third, a weak immune response may shed light on why children are mostly spared severe symptoms. Other studies have suggested that an overly strong immune response may be to blame in people who get severely ill or die from Covid-19. A human body can harm itself in its attack of a foreign pathogen, like the virus.

Some experts urged caution in interpreting results, especially since the study was small, and samples were collected only at a single point in time. Also, children already have a more powerful inborn immune system than adults, so their bodies might just be better at swatting away diseases.

Either way, having weaker and fewer antibodies does not seem to mean that children would be more at risk of reinfections.

“You don’t really need a huge, overly robust immune response to maintain protections over some period of time,” Bhattacharya said. “I don’t know that I would be especially worried that kids have a little bit lower antibody response.”

As colleges have become a major source of coronavirus outbreaks, student journalists are on the front lines of a vital national story.

Amelia spoke to college journalists across the country. In reporting on their own campus communities, they often break news about their administrations and their peers.

“It’s weird being a student reporting on other students,” said Eli Hoff, 19, the managing editor of The Maneater, a student newspaper at the University of Missouri. Hoff and his colleagues broke news about cases in fraternities, which he said drew prank calls and harassment by Greek members.

After the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill abandoned plans to open for in-person instruction, Elizabeth Moore filed a public records request. She and her colleagues at The Daily Tar Heel, the student paper, then published articles based on over 3,000 pages of documents, exposing internal faculty dissent over reopening plans and advance warning from epidemiologists.

“You could see a direct line from the decisions they made in May,” said Moore, 20. “That ended up causing some harm. A lot of people got sick, and people got displaced from dorms.”

That reporting is essential. In places without a robust local news presence, student journalists are sometimes the only reporters left in town. As student outbreaks often spread past the dorms and affect local economies, their work is especially important.

Here are some great pieces of student journalism from the pandemic:

An updated New York Times survey of more than 1,700 American colleges and universities shows more than 252,000 cases and at least 80 deaths since the pandemic began. Most of the cases have been announced since students returned to campus for the fall term; more than 38,000 cases have been added since late October.

Most of the deaths were reported in the spring and involved college employees. But at least three students — Jamain Stephens, a football player at California University of Pennsylvania; Chad Dorrill, a sophomore at Appalachian State University; and Bethany Nesbitt, a student at Grace College (see below) — have died in recent weeks after contracting the virus.

With no national tracking system, and statewide data available only sporadically, colleges are making their own rules for how to tally infections. While The Times’s survey is believed to be the most comprehensive account available, it is also an undercount.

“The hardest thing about single parenting in the pandemic has been the abyss of loneliness coupled with responsibilities that cannot be met,” Andrea Luttrell wrote for The Times’s Parenting section. “My son needs help navigating remote school; this is a situation built for stay-at-home parents, but I cannot afford to not work. And I am one of the fortunate ones. … I am beyond lucky, and I feel like I’m drowning.”

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Copyright © 2020 AMSNBC News