Young infants show unexpectedly strong immune responses to Covid-19, new research in the United Kingdom has found.
In particular, compared with adults, young infants produce relatively high levels of antibodies and immune cells that can specifically protect against the virus.
The study, led by academics and paediatricians at the University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, has been published in the scientific journal Cell Reports Medicine.
Young infants are usually susceptible to respiratory viruses
During the pandemic, children have been much less likely to become seriously ill with Covid-19. This was unexpected, especially in young infants who are known to be vulnerable to severe disease from other respiratory viruses, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and flu.
With very little data published on the immune response to Covid-19 in young babies, the research team set out to examine antibody and cellular immune responses in young infants, when compared with adults.
The researchers evaluated immune responses in four infants under three months old, who were confirmed with Covid-19 in March 2020 and showed mild febrile illness. They were evaluated alongside their parents and adult controls who had recovered from the virus.
Results confirmed that babies produce relatively high levels of antibodies and immune cells that can specifically protect against Covid-19, compared with adults.
The results will help scientists to create better Covid vaccines
Dr Anu Goenka, Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said: “By conducting a detailed study on young infants who are relatively protected from severe Covid-19, we have shown what protective immunity ‘looks like’, in terms of the make-up of specific antibodies and immune cells directed against SARS-CoV-2.
“This is very useful information for the design of future vaccines that could seek to induce and mimic the signature of this protective immunity.”
The next step for the research team is to confirm their findings among a larger group of infants, as well as compare infant vs adult immune response during, and at several timepoints after, their infection.