When Lily Swinko and her husband, Tony Maguire, traveled to Sydney early this year, they never imagined that they would become a significant component of a study to untangle the mystery of how children respond to the Coronavirus.
The couple contracted the virus during a trip to Sydney to attend a wedding in March, then returned to their family home in West Melbourne, where they met with their three children who remained there.
In a development that baffled doctors, all three children, between the ages of nine, seven and six, tested negative for the virus, despite their parents testing positive for the virus and their repeated exposure to the disease by sharing bedding, hugging and kissing their parents every day.
The doctors were so puzzled that they tested each child four times to make sure the results were correct, which were negative each time.
A team of 30 researchers led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) examined the family's immune systems closely for a month. Blood, saliva, nose, throat, stool and urine samples were taken from the household every two to three days.
A new study has found how children in a #Melbourne #family developed a #COVID-19 immune response after chronic exposure to the #SARSCoV2 virus from their #parents. The #research was led by @MCRI_for_kids’ Dr @Shidan_Tosif & Dr @melanie_neeland. https://t.co/DS0PPIwtLc pic.twitter.com/2Uod5c4nrN— Murdoch Children's (@MCRI_for_kids) November 17, 2020
Pediatrician Shidan Tosev, who co-led the study, published in Nature Communications this week, said what was most surprising was that after extensive testing, the three children were found to have antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
This indicates that their immune system has successfully stopped and fought the virus without becoming "infected" and indicates that they somehow had an immune response.
It is likely that the results will be important because questions still remain about why "Covid-19" affects children and adults in different ways, with the majority of children who test positive for the infection showing only mild symptoms or completely without symptoms.
"This study is kind of our first step to look deeply into the children's immune system and find out what components might respond to the virus," said Dr. Tosev. The fact that these children were able to stop the virus and without showing a positive test result indicates that they have a certain level of the immune system that is able to Responding and dealing effectively with the virus, without ever becoming sick. "
"The youngest child, who had no symptoms at all, had the strongest antibody response," said co-lead author Dr. Melanie Nyland, who led the laboratory side of the study. She added that her team carefully analyzed the children's immune cells and antibody types.
Dr. Tosif said that while the results appear promising, they "raised more questions than answers."
Researchers are now screening more children across Australia who have been in home contact for positive cases.
"What we want to know is, is this happening on a larger scale? It would be very wonderful if there were many other children who had an immune response and stopped the virus and we don't even know it," said Dr. Tawsif.
Emerging global research indicates that younger children have more powerful immune systems, which means that their bodies can fight the virus more quickly than adults.
Some experts speculate that their immune system is overresponsive. There is another hypothesis that children are infected with lower doses of the virus at first, and therefore cannot reproduce in children as it is in adults.
"We are now looking at how and why children respond in different ways when infected compared to adults and the elderly because children are usually identified as a population group exposed to many viruses. We also want to know how children of each age group respond to the virus and why it might be," said Dr. There are differences between the age groups. "