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Why children get much less COVID-19 than adults revealed?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors and researchers have questioned the reasons of the different clinical expressiveness of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children. Children and young people under the age of 20 have a susceptibility to contract the infection equal to about half than adults, and in addition to being very often asymptomatic. They have less severe clinical pictures (more often affecting the gastrointestinal tract) with a much better prognosis and a much lower lethality than adults.

Now a group of researchers coordinated by Prof. Roberto Berni Canani, professor of pediatrics at the Federico II University and Principal Investigator of the Ceinge Biotechnology Advanced, has finally revealed the cause of these differences. By analyzing biological samples obtained from the upper respiratory and intestinal tracts (the two main routes of entry of the virus into our organism) of healthy children and adults, a different expression of a molecule, called neuropilin 1, has been demonstrated, which plays a crucial role in allowing attachment to the ACE-2 receptor with which the Coronavirus spike protein binds to enter host cells.

The study is the result of the active collaboration between the researchers of CEINGE Advanced Biotechnology led by Roberto Berni Canani and Giuseppe Castaldo, the Federico II University led by Elena Cantone and Nicola Gennarelli and the L. Vanvitelli University led by Caterina Strisciuglio. It will be published on the next issue of the prestigious international journal Frontiers in Pediatrics.

“We have identified an important factor capable of conferring protection against SARS-CoV-2 in children,” says Roberto Berni Canani, “this factor is added to other immunological factors that we are studying. The definition of these co-factors will be very useful for the definition of new strategies for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19”.