*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
Are infected-but-healthy children major "silent spreaders" of the new coronavirus? New research out of northern Italy, once a COVID-19 hotspot, suggests they might not be.
Rigorous COVID-19 testing of children and adults admitted to a hospital in Milan for reasons other than coronavirus found that just over 1% of kids tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, compared to more than 9% of adults.
That suggests a very low rate of asymptomatic infection among children, and does "not support the hypothesis that children are at higher risk of carrying SARS-CoV-2 asymptomatically than adults," the researchers reported in the online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.
One U.S. expert in infectious disease found the report encouraging.
"Since the start of the pandemic it has been very difficult to determine what the actual role of children in the spread of the virus is," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.
"It is becoming clear that they do not amplify this virus the way they do influenza when it comes to community spread," Adalja said.
In the new study, physicians led by Dr. Carlo Agostoni, of the Ca'Granda Foundation Maggiore Polyclinic Hospital in Milan, conducted two sets of nasal swab tests, up to two days apart, on 214 newly admitted patients.
Eighty-three of these new admissions were children and 131 were adults. All were admitted to the hospital in March and April, at the height of northern Italy's COVID-19 outbreak. However, all of the patients were admitted for reasons unconnected to COVID-19, and none had shown any symptoms of the illness.
So how many were secretly carrying the virus nonetheless? Based on the swab tests, only 1.2% of the pediatric patients turned up positive for infection, compared to 9.2% of adults.