According to a meta-analysis of data on the first four months of the pandemic in 26 countries, a majority of children infected with COVID-19 had better clinical outcomes when compared to adults affected by the virus.
Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio have conducted a meta-analysis of data on children and young adults with COVID-19. In all, the research team reviewed a total of 131 studies published between January 24 and May 14, which involved 7,780 patients of all ages.
According to the results of their research, which have been published in The Lancet, 19% of children infected by COVID-19 had no symptoms, 5.6% suffered from co-infections like flu along with virus, and 3.3% had to be admitted to intensive care. Only seven deaths were reported.
"In the study we report the most common symptoms, quantify laboratory findings and describe imaging characteristics of children with COVID-19," explains Alvaro Moreira, an assistant professor of pediatrics and neonatologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who supervised the meta-analysis.
As in the adult population studied, the most common symptoms observed in children were fever and cough, which were respectively observed in 59% and 56% of cases.
Among 233 patients with a medical history that made them more vulnerable to the virus, there were 152 children with compromised immune systems or underlying respiratory or cardiac disease.
Only a small number of children met metrics for inclusion as cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which is similar to Kawasaki disease. Their disease resembled the more extreme forms of COVID-19 observed in adults.
Children with systemic inflammation had a significant decrease in the amount of lymphocytes, one of the main immune-cell types, in their blood. "COVID-positive children who didn't have the extreme form of the disease had 42% lymphocytes in their blood, versus 11% in children with the multi-system syndrome," points out Dr. Moreira.
However, the researcher also warns that the meta-analysis did not take into account a surge in patients in New York, Great Britain and Italy, in which specialists are now beginning to see more children affected by multi-system inflammatory syndrome.