Are children more susceptible to the new COVID-19 variant?

Some scientists in the UK say the new COVID-19 variant is more transmissible in children, compared to other variants.

In the UK, younger children are testing positive at a higher rate for the new strain, according to researchers.

Experts say that could be because the new variant spreads more easily in children.

The claim comes from members of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group (Nervtag), based in the UK.

However, there may be a lot of explanations as to why cases have a different age distribution, says Dr. Michael Myint, an infectious disease specialist with MultiCare Health System.

“The data that’s coming out of Britain right now is still sporadic. We don’t have peer review articles coming out on this yet,” he said.

University of Washington microbiologist Dr. Deborah Fuller says the claim is worth investigating, especially with the new variant now in the United States.

“Will a child who was more resistant to the old strain now be more vulnerable to infection with this new strain? That’s a piece we don’t know yet,” she said.

Scientists say the new variant binds to molecules in a way that could significantly increase transmission. Dr. Fuller questions if that could make children more susceptible to the virus.

“What’s going to happen in terms of returning to schools, if it turns out that children are able to transmit more efficiently?” she said.

At this point, experts say there’s reason to be cautious but not concerned.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Health says it is actively looking for the new variant, which has not been detected in the state.