Unvaccinated children mount a rapid immune response to SARS-CoV-2 which may contribute to less severe symptoms, but which may also limit the development of an immune “memory” response to ward off future infections, a study led by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) has found.
Published in Immunity, the study is among the first to analyse the immune response of children following infection with SARS-CoV-2, using new technologies and a group of more than 50 children from Melbourne and Los Angeles.
They found that unvaccinated children that developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 also produced memory killer T cells — the cells responsible for recognising and fighting off subsequent infections, even against other variants of concern. However, these memory T cells were fewer in number in children when compared to adults.
Lead author University of Melbourne Dr Louise Rowntree, a Research Fellow at the Doherty Institute said that children’s limited ability to generate strong memory killer T cell responses following natural infection may leave them vulnerable to future infections.
“Memory killer T cells are essential for protection against severe disease in the future and while we observed these T cells in children, they were at a lower frequency compared to adults” Dr Rowntree said.
“We also found that not all household contacts who were exposed to SARS-CoV-2 generated memory T cell responses” Dr Rowntree said.
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