Susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Children and Adolescents Compared With Adults A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Viner, Russell M. et al.
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Importance The degree to which children and adolescents are infected by and transmit severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is unclear. The role of children and adolescents in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is dependent on susceptibility, symptoms, viral load, social contact patterns, and behavior. Objective To systematically review the susceptibility to and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among children and adolescents compared with adults. Data Sources PubMed and medRxiv were searched from database inception to July 28, 2020, and a total of 13 926 studies were identified, with additional studies identified through hand searching of cited references and professional contacts. Study Selection Studies that provided data on the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in children and adolescents (younger than 20 years) compared with adults (20 years and older) derived from contact tracing or population screening were included. Single-household studies were excluded. Data Extraction and Synthesis PRISMA guidelines for abstracting data were followed, which was performed independently by 2 reviewers. Quality was assessed using a critical appraisal checklist for prevalence studies. Random-effects meta-analysis was undertaken. Main Outcomes and Measures Secondary infection rate (contact-tracing studies) or prevalence or seroprevalence (population screening studies) among children and adolescents compared with adults. Results A total of 32 studies comprising 41 640 children and adolescents and 268 945 adults met inclusion criteria, including 18 contact-tracing studies and 14 population screening studies. The pooled odds ratio of being an infected contact in children compared with adults was 0.56 (95% CI, 0.37-0.85), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 94.6%). Three school-based contact-tracing studies found minimal transmission from child or teacher index cases. Findings from population screening studies were heterogenous and were not suitable for meta-analysis. Most studies were consistent with lower seroprevalence in children compared with adults, although seroprevalence in adolescents appeared similar to adults. Conclusions and Relevance In this meta-analysis, there is preliminary evidence that children and adolescents have lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, with an odds ratio of 0.56 for being an infected contact compared with adults. There is weak evidence that children and adolescents play a lesser role than adults in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at a population level. This study provides no information on the infectivity of children.