Children retain COVID-19 antibodies for up to a year, according to UTHealth Houston findings
Published: October 24, 2023
Children had antibodies from a COVID-19 infection or vaccination for up to 12 months, suggesting they may have some protection from the virus for at least a year, according to new findings from UTHealth Houston researchers.
“These results have important implications moving forward in terms of vaccination schedules,” said Sarah Messiah, PhD, MPH first author of the article and professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Dallas.
The article was published in Nature's journal Pediatric Research, the flagship journal for the American Pediatric Society, the European Society for Pediatric Research, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the International Pediatric Research Foundation.
Messiah and her team examined data from Texans ages 5 to 19 years old whose families volunteered to participate in the Texas Coronavirus Antibody REsponse Survey (CARES). Texas CARES began in October 2020 to assess the COVID-19 antibody status over time through questionnaires and antibody tests. The project is ongoing, counting more than 90,000 participants of all ages across Texas. It is one of the world’s largest COVID-19 surveys of its kind.
The current article reports findings gathered between October 2020 and November 2022. These participants completed surveys and antibody tests at four different time points over 12 months.
The two antibody tests used at each time point analyzed the level of antibodies in the participant’s blood. The Roche N-test detects antibodies from a COVID-19 infection, while the Roche S-test detects antibodies from an infection or a vaccination.
The percentage of participants with positive N-antibody levels increased from 32.84% at the first test to 79.51% at the fourth test. The percentage of participants with positive S-antibody levels increased from 68.80% at the first test to 98.91% at the fourth test.
“Children generate antibodies in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection irrespective of whether they experienced symptoms,” Messiah said. “This is important given that, especially early in the pandemic, a majority of infected children had no symptoms. However, they were still gaining antibody protection, according to our findings.”
The antibodies that the children retained, Messiah added, did not differ by age, gender, COVID-19 symptom status, severity of symptoms, or body mass index.
Overall, the findings represent essential work in continuing to understand COVID-19's impact on some of the most vulnerable populations — children.
“These findings are a significant contribution, as this is one of the largest pediatric cohorts in the world,” Messiah said.
Additional UTHealth Houston School of Public Health authors included Yashar Talebi, MS; Michael Swartz, PhD; Rachit Sabharwal, MS; Haoting Han, MS; Emma Bergqvist, MPH; Harold Kohl III, PhD; Melissa Valerio-Shewmaker, PhD; Stacia DeSantis, PhD; Ashraf Yaseen, PhD; Steven Kelder, PhD; Jessica Ross, BS; Lindsay Padilla, MPH; Michael Gonzalez, MS; Leqing Wu, PhD.
Other authors included David Lakey, MD, with The University of Texas System, Jennifer A. Shuford, MD, MPH, and Stephen Pont, MD, MPH, with the Texas Department of State Health Services, and Eric Boerwinkle, PhD, dean of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.
Funding for Texas CARES was provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services (HHS00086660000).
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