The new variant of coronavirus spreading in the UK might infect children more efficiently, according to UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group or Nervtag.
Scientists are currently investigating the signs and if proven correct, it could attribute the significant proportion of the increase in transmission.
"There is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children... but we haven't established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data,” Professor Neil Ferguson of Nervtag said in an online Q&A.
He added, ”What we've seen over the course of a five or six-week period is consistently the proportion of pillar two cases for the variant in under-15s was statistically significantly higher than the non-variant virus."
If the virus is having an easier time finding an entrance cell then that would put children on a more level playing field.
According to BBC, earlier strains of COVID-19 are less infectious in children than adults. This could be because children have fewer of the doorways (the ACE2 receptor) the virus uses to enter our body's cells.
However, the new strain appears to be capable of passing through the doorways more easily than before, said Professor Wendy Barclay of Nervtag during the Nervtag Q&A.
"We know that SARS-CoV-2, as it emerged as a virus, was not as efficient in infecting children as it was adults, and there are many hypotheses about that. And again, if the (new) virus is having an easier time of finding an entrance cell then that would put children on a more level playing field,” she said. "Therefore children are equally susceptible perhaps to this virus as adults, and therefore given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more children being infected.”
She clarified that the new strain does not “specifically attack children,” but could easily target them because it is “now less inihibited.”
On the other hand, Professor Julian Hiscox, chair in infection and global health at the University of Liverpool, told BBC that there isn't any evidence "at the moment” confirming that the new variant can indeed infect children more rapidly.
Scientists in the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, which detected the rapid increase in the variant, likewise said they are not aware of any increased incidence in children.
The new strain of COVID-19 was revealed to be in circulation last week by Health Secretary Matt Hancock. It is said to be the cause of the recent surge in infections, including in London and much of southeast England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced more stringent safety protocols over the weekend to prevent the alarming increase. ”New variant may be up to 70 percent more transmissible," he said in a virtual presser.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health clarified that there is no new COVID-19 strain in the Philippines.
"Sa ngayon wala pa silang nakikitang bagong strain na meron tayo dito sa bansa based on their monitoring,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing on Dec. 21. "But of course, we will be furthering this monitoring."