- A baby in Washington, DC with COVID-19 was found to have 51,418 times more viral particles than typical patients.
- The researchers later discovered that the infection was a new variant of COVID-19, which was seen in at least eight other cases.
- It is not clear if this variant is more dangerous for children and more research is needed.
- Visit the Insider Business section for more stories.
A new variant of coronavirus has emerged.
A very ill newborn, treated at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, was found to have not just a new variant of the new coronavirus, but a viral load 51,418 times that of other young patients, according to the Washington Post.
The new variant was recently identified when researchers sequenced the baby’s virus genome, which treated it in September and it recovered, the Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha reported.
It is not clear how common or risky this new variant could be. The database found eight other cases of this variant in the US Mid-Atlantic region, according to a pre-print study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, on coronavirus variations in children.
The variant, the researchers said, has a different type of spike protein structure that can make it more infectious.
It is not clear whether this new variant explains the large number of viral particles detected in the baby’s nose.
“It could be a complete coincidence,” Roberta DeBiasi, chief of infectious diseases at the National Children’s Hospital, told the Post. “But the association is quite strong. If you see a patient who has exponentially more virus and is a completely different variant, it is probably related.”
Many questions remain about how the coronavirus affects children
Children are less likely to have severe cases of COVID-19, according to national data. Very young children may be less likely to infect other people when they get sick, although the CDC still suggests that they could all transmit the disease.
But researchers still don’t fully understand all the implications of the coronavirus for children and babies.
In the past five months, the number of pediatric coronavirus cases has increased “dramatically,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Association of Children’s Hospitals.
Severe cases of COVID-19 in children are rare, but they do exist and have been linked to serious and long-term side effects, including brain damage.
And we know that some children are more vulnerable than others: the death rate of children of color is much higher than that of their white peers. As of February 11, 241 children had died from COVID-19 and the vast majority were Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native.