Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by Children

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2020 Aug 17;117(33-34):553-560. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2020.0553.


Background: Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, children appear largely spared from the direct effects of disease, suggesting age as an important predictor of infection and severity. They remain, however, impacted by far-reaching public health interventions. One crucial question often posed is whether children generally transmit SARS-CoV-2 effectively.

Methods: We assessed the components of transmission and the different study designs and considerations necessary for valid assessment of transmission dynamics. We searched for published evidence about transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by children employing a narrative review methodology through 25 June, 2020.

Results: Transmission dynamics must be studied in repre - sentative pediatric populations with a combination of study designs including rigorous epidemiological studies (e.g. in households, schools, daycares, clinical settings) and laboratory studies while taking into account the social and socio-economic contexts. Viral load (VL) estimates from representative pediatric samples of infected children are missing so far. Currently available evidence suggests that the secondary attack rate stratified by age of the infector is lower for children, however this age pattern needs to be better quantified and understood.

Conclusion: A generalizable pediatric evidence base is urgently needed to inform policy making now, later when facing potential subsequent waves, and extending through a future in which endemicity alongside vaccination may become the enduring reality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission*