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Kids’ noses armed with pre-activated cells designed to fight off coronavirus, new study

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Studies show children have a substantially lower risk of contracting the coronavirus, and if they do get infected, the case is much less severe. And now scientists are beginning to understand why.

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The extra layer of protection resides in children’s nasal cavities. It’s an innate response kids are born with that’s designed to fight respiratory viruses of all kinds, including COVID-19.

Scientists found through nasal swabs that kids showed higher concentrations of pattern recognition receptors — also known as PPRs — compared to adults.

“It’s not necessarily that kids don’t get COVID,” Dr. Christopher Doerhring, vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health, told News 8. “But what it probably does do is lead to a bigger challenge for the virus to replicate, and so they show shorter course, more mild illness and thankfully less risk of spreading the virus because of those factors.”

While the study sample was small, researchers detected at least five defensive cells: MDA5, RGI-1, KLRC1, Cyotoxic T-cells and CD8 T-cells.

“Our data provide clear evidence that the immune cells of the upper airways of children are pre-activated and primed for sensing the coronavirus,” authors say in the paper published in Nature Biotechnology. “The sensitivity of these cells may explain why children are better able to control early stage infection compared to adults therefore reducing risk of developing severe COVID-19.”