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New COVID-19 symptoms identified for children

(Adobe Stock image)

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has contributed to a UK-wide study that has given new insight into common symptoms and prevalence of COVID-19 in children.

The health board’s Children and Young Adult’s Research Unit (CYARU) has been implementing the Rapid-19 study, which aims to assess the number of children who have had COVID-19, the symptomatology of infection and whether those children have antibodies that may be able to fight off the infection.

To conduct the study, which has been running since May and is ongoing, researchers are measuring children’s COVID-19 antibodies. More than 1,000 children across the UK have had their antibodies measured so far, including 182 at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales.

Seven per cent of the children tested positive for antibodies following the first wave of the pandemic, indicating previous infection with COVID-19. More than half of the children with COVID-19 reported no symptoms.

However, the study found that gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting were the most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children, ahead of cough or changes in their sense of smell or taste.

The findings also showed young children under 10 years of age were just as likely to have evidence of prior infection as older children, and that asymptomatic children were just as likely to develop antibodies as symptomatic children.

Fiona Kinghorn, Executive Director of Public Health for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “COVID-19 remains a relatively new virus to us, and it is important that through valuable research studies such as this we continue to increase our understanding of it.

“I would like to thank my research colleagues here at Cardiff and Vale UHB for their excellent contribution to this study, and congratulate everybody involved for their role in these important findings as this research continues to monitor community transmission of the virus in children.”

Paediatric Research Nurse Specialist, Zoe Morrison added: “Thanks to this study we now better understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in children after the first wave of the pandemic, and know that while the majority of children with COVID-19 will display no symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting could be a sign that they are infected with the disease, and must now consider the value of refining the testing criteria for children to include these symptoms.

“The interest in participating in this clinical trial has been unprecedented and we would like to extend  our thanks to all the children and their parents who have volunteered to take part in this study, helping us gain important insight into how this virus behaves among children.”

CYARU were able to input into the study thanks to funding for research equipment from the Noah’s Ark charity.

The team will also be using samples collected during the study to test the efficacy of new antibody tests that are developed, as well as monitoring the longer term behavior of the antibodies to understand whether they reduce in numbers or if children can lose them over time.