Role of children in the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic: a rapid scoping review

BMJ Paediatr Open. 2020 Jun 21;4(1):e000722. doi: 10.1136/bmjpo-2020-000722. eCollection 2020.


Background: As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries have adopted measures of social distance, with the childhood population being one of the main focus of attention in these measures.

Methods: A rapid scoping review was carried out by searching PubMed to know if children are more contagious than adults, and the proportion of asymptomatic cases in children. Google Scholar and MedRxiv/bioRxiv were also searched. The time period was restricted from 1 December 2019 until 28 May 2020. Only studies published in English, Italian, French or Spanish were included.

Results: Fourteen out of 1099 identified articles were finally included. Studies included cases from China (n=9 to 2143), China and Taiwan (n=536), Korea (n=1), Vietnam (n=1), Australia (n=9), Geneva (n=40), the Netherlands (n=116), Ireland (n=3) and Spain (population-based study of IgG, n=8243). Although no complete data were available, between 15% and 55%-60% were asymptomatic, and 75%-100% of cases were from family transmission. Studies analysing school transmission showed children as not a driver of transmission. Prevalence of COVID-19 IgG antibody in children <15 years was lower than the general population in the Spanish study.

Conclusions: Children are not transmitters to a greater extent than adults. There is a need to improve the validity of epidemiological surveillance to solve current uncertainties, and to take into account social determinants and child health inequalities during and after the current pandemic.

Keywords: epidemiology; virology.

Publication types

  • Review