Clin Exp Pediatr. 2021 Oct 12. doi: 10.3345/cep.2020.02033. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Viral load and shedding duration are highly associated with the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. However, limited studies have reported on viral load or shedding in children and adolescents infected with sudden acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
PURPOSE: This study aimed to investigate the natural course of viral load in asymptomatic or mild pediatric cases.
METHODS: Thirty-one children (<18 years) with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were hospitalized and enrolled in this study. Viral loads were evaluated in nasopharyngeal swab samples using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (E, RdRp, N genes). Ct values were measured when patients met the clinical criteria to be released from quarantine.
RESULTS: The mean age of the patients was 9.8 years, 18 (58%) had mild disease, and 13 (42%) were asymptomatic. Most children were infected by adult family members, most commonly by their mothers. The most common symptoms were fever and sputum (26%), followed by cough and runny nose. Nine patients (29%) had a high or intermediate viral load (Ct value≤30) when they had no clinical symptoms. Viral load showed no difference between symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. Viral rebounds were found in 15 cases (48%), which contributed to prolonged viral detection. The mean duration of viral detection was 25.6 days. Viral loads were significantly lower in patients with viral rebounds than in those with no rebound (E, p=0.003; RdRp, p=0.01; N, p=0.02).
CONCLUSION: Our study showed that many pediatric patients with COVID-19 experienced viral rebound and showed viral detection for more than 3 weeks. Further studies are needed to investigate the relationship between viral rebound and infectiousness in COVID-19.