Delta variant major cause for COVID in children during second wave: ICMR study

According to the study, more than half the samples were from males and the median (IQR) age of the study participants was 13 years

New Delhi: The Delta variant was the major cause of coronavirus infection in children's COVID-19 cases during the second wave in India, according to an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study.

ICMR scientists say that a sample of 583 corona-infected children was studied between March and June 2021.

During this, genome sequencing of each sample was done and it was seen which forms of the virus are more common in children aged 0 to 18 years. In this, samples of 16 COVID-infected children have been taken from hospitals in Delhi and NCR.

"Out of 512 sequences, 372 were VOCs (variants of concern), 51 were VOIs (variants of interest). The most common lineages observed were Delta, followed by Kappa, Alpha and B.1.36, seen in 65.82 per cent, 9.96 per cent, 6.83 per cent and 4.68 per cent, respectively in the study population," ICMR study noted.

According to the study, more than half the samples were from males and the median (IQR) age of the study participants was 13 years.

"More than half of the patients (51.8 per cent) belonged to the age group of 13-19 years, 41.2 per cent to 3- 12 years and the rest 7 per cent to less than 3 years," the study further informed.

It added that the symptoms were reported among 37.2 per cent of patients and 14.8 per cent reported to be hospitalized.

"Symptom profile was available for only 74 COVID patients, with fever, cough, runny nose and sore throat, being the most common symptoms noted in 60 per cent, 49.3 per cent, 23.4 per cent and 12 per cent of the children, respectively. The rest of the symptoms were seen in less than 10 per cent of the patients," the study read.

As per researchers, a higher number of Alpha variant cases were reported, which was superseded rapidly by Delta amongst children during January-March 2021.

According to the study, India's fourth serosurvey that was carried out during the first half of 2021 showed that about 50 per cent of the surveyed children had antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The ICMR study also highlighted the Delta lineage predominated in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana whereas the Kappa variant was observed in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chandigarh.

"The northern part of India revealed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 strains apart from the VOC and VUIs. Overall, it was observed that Delta strain predominated as the leading cause of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children in India during the second wave of the pandemic," the study noted.

Researchers, however, emphasized the need for continuous genomic surveillance even amongst children infected with COVID-19.

The study, a preprint uploaded on medRxiv, analysed paediatric samples collected between March and June 2021.

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