THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Researchers at the University of B.C. are partnering with BC Children’s Hospital to launch a study about kids, COVID-19 and antibodies.

On Tuesday (Dec. 1), both facilities unveiled the SPRING project, which is looking to find out how many kids, teens and young adults have contracted the novel coronavirus in B.C.

“We’ve seen, even from earlier on in the pandemic, the number of children that appear to be infected is relatively low,” said lead researcher Dr. Manish Sadarangani, associate professor in the UBC department of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Evaluation Center at BC Children’s Hospital.

Sadarangani said this seemed unusual, given that children are well-known for spreading colds, flus and other respiratory viruses through classrooms.

According to B.C. Centre for Disease control date, so far 4,196 children and teens have been infected with COVID-19; 1,303 under the age of 10 and 2,893 between 10 and 19 years old. An additional 7,692 of 20 to 29-year-olds have tested positive for the virus, but the B.C. CDC does not break out up 20 to 24-year-olds, which is as high as the study aims to measure.

There are multiple theories as to why children seem to not get infected with, and spread around, COVID-19, the disease is caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

“There are other coronaviruses that are similar to COVID-19 and kids who may have been infected with those more recently than adults, for example, may have some partial immunity that in some way is protecting them from getting COVID-19,” Sadarangani said. “But I don’t think we yet fully understand.”

Sadarangani said that part of the issue is that children are often asymptomatic carriers and that getting your child tested can seem difficult, “because of the invasiveness of the test, especially before the swish and spit test we have available.”

Testing of asymptomatic individuals, particularly prior to surgery, has revealed people who had no idea they were even infected with the virus, Sadarangani said.

“I think one of the challenges has been getting enough children,” he said of antibody testing.

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The SPRING study is looking for up to 16,000 participants now. To be eligible, participants must be under the age of 25 and living in B.C. They will be emailed a short online survey about their basic demographics and health, as well as symptoms of COVID-19. They will also be sent a kit in the mail to collect an at-home self-administered finger or heel-prick blood sample. Both the survey and blood sample will take under an hour to complete and then the sample will be mailed back to researchers.

Sadarangani said that while the study will be ongoing, the hope is to get data out after the first few weeks to help inform the next stages of COVID-19 measures. Participants will also find out if they or their child has COVID-19 antibodies.

For more information and to enrol, those interested can visit www.bcchr.ca/vec/research/spring-study.

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@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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