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Is the mutant COVID-19 really more infectious to children? Top scientists disagree

Scientists researching the new variant of the coronavirus have said they have no proof the new strain is more infectious in children. Professor Neil Ferguson,…

Scientists researching the new variant of the coronavirus have said they have no proof the new strain is more infectious in children.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a SAGE adviser and Imperial College epidemiologist, said Monday that there is ‘a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children’.

But members of the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK)  said they are ‘not familiar’ with any data to suggest this might be the case.

COG-UK has examined the genetics of more than 160,000 cases of coronavirus in the UK and is constantly watching how the virus evolves to see whether any of the mutations are important, as the new variant named VUI-202012/1 has become.

They said there are not enough cases of the new variant recorded and that more data is needed to make any comments on how it affects specific groups.

Professor Ferguson said he has seen data showing the variant making up an unusually large proportion of cases being seen in children, but is not yet sure why.

Members of COG-UK also confirmed the warning of Britain’s chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance when they said the new variant was all over the UK already, not just in London and the East and South East.

But it will be a couple more weeks before they start to get enough data to confirm if it is more deadly or more likely to leave people in hospital, with most people who have caught it still in the middle of their infection period.

The virus genetics experts said they will need to analyse data from thousands more cases of coronavirus caused by the new variant to be able to say whether it is more likely to infect children than previous versions of the virus.

Professor Tom Connor, a virus evolution expert at the University of Cardiff and member of COG-UK and Public Health, Wales, added that scientists would need ‘a much larger number of cases’ to be able to determine the effects on children.

Scientists have suggested that children might be more susceptible to the new variant of the virus because it is better able to latch onto people’s ACE-2 receptors that the virus uses to get into the body.

Schools could face closure in the new year if the variant can’t be brought under control and is being discovered in children.

Public Health England said it was doing more research to work out how the variant affects children.

Professor Susan Hopkins, deputy director of its National Infection Service, said: “Further studies are being undertaken to better understand the characteristics of the variant virus. It is too early to tell whether there is a shift in age distribution.”

 

Culled from Mail Online

 

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