“Hard to believe. I don’t know how you feel about it but they [children] have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this. They don’t have a problem.” Those were the words of President Donald Trump, in August, as part of an argument for re-opening schools despite the Covid pandemic. Those words caused him some grief during the campaign, because in fact children sometimes do become infected with the Covid-19 virus, they can certainly “have a problem” when that happens; and even if a particular child remains asymptotic, he can still pass it along. But, it also has to be said, there was a nugget of truth in that observation.
On November 18, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center published their findings on the role of a particular enzyme in the spread of this virus. They said that an enzyme, TMPRSS2, helps the virus break into the epithelial cells in the lungs.
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The amount of TMPRSS2 in a human body increases with age. The low levels of it in children and especially infants may explain why “very young children seem to be less likely to either get infected or to have severe disease symptoms,” said Dr. Jennifer Sucre, one of the leaders of the research team at Vanderbilt. This fact opens up a line of research for treatment.