Doctors noted that when they sequenced the virus in the baby, they found a variant they hadn’t seen before.

HEALTH | The baby’s viral load was 51,418 times the median of other pediatric patients | PHOTO EFE

Among the more than 2,000 children treated for coronavirus at Children’s National Hospital in DC, the case of a newborn was unusual. The baby was very sick. Most infected children show little or no symptoms, and even those hospitalized tend to have mild cases.

But the real surprise came when doctors measured the baby’s viral load. It was 51,418 times the median of other pediatric patients. And when they sequenced the virus in the baby recently, they found a variant they hadn’t seen before.

Roberta DeBiasi, chief of infectious diseases at the hospital, knew she could not conclude anything from a single case. But it did sound the alarms. And as the researchers delved into the mystery, they found evidence that a variant with a mutation called N679S may be circulating in the Mid-Atlantic region.

No one knows if the baby, who was seen in September and has since recovered, represents a chance event, a sign of things to come, or worrisome changes already in motion as new, more communicable variants race across the Earth.

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“It could be a complete coincidence,” DeBiasi said. 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.

Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, explained that the viral load in the baby’s nose “in itself is shocking and noteworthy.” However, he was cautious in speculating that “it could be due to N679S, or simply because it is a newborn with an immature immune system, which allows the virus to replicate uncontrollably.”

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As the world enters a new stage of the pandemic in which the virus is changing significantly, the United States has lagged so far behind in tracking new variants that it is difficult to understand the current threat, much less predict the one. next.

The White House announced last week that it will invest an additional $ 200 million in genomic sequencing to help track new variants, allowing 25,000 per week to be analyzed. Some experts argue that the best benefit for our limited genetic testing could come from focusing more on children, who could act as precursors to more infectious strains because they are generally more resistant to the virus.

Until then, findings like Children’s National’s remain pieces of a puzzle that may be important in determining the direction of the pandemic, or simply transient scientific trivia.

The question of the effect of the new variants on children is especially important now that the nation’s highest health authority has declared that it is largely safe to reopen schools even as school systems in countries besieged by the UK variant have closed.

Text taken and translated from The Washington Post



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