PREPRINT: Children Have Lower SARS-CoV-2 Viral Loads Than Adults

The question of whether children are less likely to pass on SARS-CoV-2 is important for planning society’s response to the pandemic. A document available on the Charité hospital website has not been formally published but is frequently referred to as supporting the notion that viral loads are similar in children and adults. Methods: The summary data from this document was extracted and used to produce summary statistics for three age groups: younger children (ages up to 11), older children (ages 12 to 19) and adults (ages 20 and above). Viral loads between the two children’s groups and the adult group were compared using Welch’s t test, which only requires group means and standard deviations and which is robust against moderate departures from normality. Findings: Viral loads were significantly lower than in adults for both younger children (p=0.04) and older children (p=0.04). Overall, viral loads were lower in children than adults (p=0.005). Interpretation: For both younger and older children, on average those with detectable SARS-CoV-2 have significantly lower viral loads than adults. Funding: No funding was received for this analysis.

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