This probably also explains why children are much less likely to get seriously ill, according to scientists from Berlin and Heidelberg in the journal Nature Biotechnology. “We wanted to understand why virus protection obviously works much better in children than in adults,” explained Irina Lehmann, Head of the Molecular Epidemiology Working Group at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité Hospital.
In search of an answer, the researchers removed some cells from the nasal mucosa of 42 healthy and infected children and 44 adults, and then analyzed, among other things, the activity of certain genes in individual cells.
Recognition receptors are faster
In order to fight viruses quickly, so-called pattern recognition receptors must be activated, scientists explain. And it was this system that was more active in the cells of the upper respiratory tract and in certain cells of the immune system in children than in adults, the analyzes showed.
When a virus infects a cell, the body produces the substance interferon, which initiates the fight against the virus. German researchers say the early warning system in adults is taken aback, does not fight the virus as effectively and can spread more widely.
Serious diseases are therefore less common
“From this study, we learned that there are clearly not only risk factors for severe Covid-19 events, but also protective factors.” Lehmann explained. We can now consider whether it is possible to stimulate protective reactions against infection in order to protect high-risk patients from serious illness.