UKE presents first results of corona study on children and youths

Children and youths across Hamburg examined for COVID-19
23 June 2020
Tobias Huber, scientist at UKE

The University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf UKE presented Friday (June 19, 2020) interim results of its study "C19.CHILD Hamburg" of 6,000 healthy and chronically ill children and adolescents aged 0 to 18 years, who have been examined for coronavirus since early May. The virus was not detected in the nasopharyngeal swab by PCR done on 3,107 test persons. Around 36 out of 2,436 children and youths tested positive for antibodies, UKE announced.

Herd immunity - long way off

"To date, 5,000 children and young people have taken part in the study. Within a few weeks, a team of more than 100 doctors, nurses, students, laboratory doctors, statisticians and economists have compiled a large data set. Initial analyses show that only 1.5 per cent of the children and adolescents produced antibodies and that we are far from herd immunity," said Prof. Dr. Ania C. Muntau, Director of the UKE Clinic and Policlinic for Children's and Youth Medicine, who is co-ordinating the study with Prof. Dr. Søren W. Gersting, Clinic and Policlinic for Children's and Youth Medicine, and Prof. Dr. Thomas S. Mir, Clinic and Policlinic for Children's Cardiology.

First phase of study

Data on the frequency of COVID-19 infections in healthy and chronically ill children and adolescents were evaluated during the first phase of the study from May 11 to 5 June. So far, 3,107 nasopharyngeal swabs and 2,436 antibody findings have been obtained. The participants come from all parts of Hamburg and comprise 46.4 per cent female and 53.6 per cent male test persons of all age groups. On average, the participants are 7.4 years old. Antibodies were detected in the blood of 36 out of 2,436 children or 1.2 to 1.5 per cent when considering the accuracy of the test and the size of the study cohort. None of the children examined up to June 6 had a positive nasopharyngeal swab meaning none of the participants had an acute coronavirus infection. "Thus, we can conclude that the lockdown measures for the children and adolescents in Hamburg were successful," said Prof. Muntau.

Risk increases with age

Children who tested positive were on average older than the average of the study cohort. If the cohort is divided into two groups, this results in a 1 per cent positive antibody test among 0 to 9 year-olds and 2 per cent among 10 to 18-year-olds. The probability of a positive antibody test increases with age among children by 8 per cent with each year of life. The children who tested positive will be monitored in a follow-up phase lasting six months. For the 36 children and youths who tested positive, the examinations were extended to 15 siblings and 91 adults in the same household to trace possible transmission routes.

The study lasts until late June and is being carried out in all of Hamburg children's hospitals including the Altona Children's Hospital, the Asklepios Klinik Nord - Heidberg, the Catholic Children's Hospital Wilhelmstift, the Helios Mariahilf Klinik Hamburg and the Children's UKE in general paediatrics, paediatric cardiology, paediatric haemato-oncology and paediatric surgery.

University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

Founded in 1889, the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) counts among Europe's cutting-edge medical centres and employs over 11,000 staff making it one of the biggest employers in Hamburg. Along with its University Heart and Vascular Center and the Martini-Klinik, the UKE has more than 1,730 beds and treats around 507,000 patients every year. The UKE conducts research mainly in the neurosciences, cardiovascular research, healthcare, oncology, infections and inflammations. The UKE trains around 3,300 physicians and dentists through its Medical Faculty.