According to the CDC, the rate of hospitalization for kids diagnosed with COVID-19 was eight per 100,000, while for adults it was 20 times that at 164 per 100,000 people. While kids can and do get COVID, a team of researchers is looking into why COVID spares many kids to find a treatment for the disease.
Why does COVID-19 spare young kids and devastate the elderly?
“This is really the opposite of what we see in most respiratory viruses where the very young neonates and infants are at high risk for severe disease,” remarked Jonathan Kropski, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Lung experts from Vanderbilt University say the reason may all be due to a protein called TMPRSS2.
“TMPRSS2 really acts as an uncorking protein to allow the virus to get inside the cell,” explained Jennifer Sucre, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“That’s what allows it to start to replicate and for it to start to cause disease and injury to the lung,” illustrated Dr. Kropski.
The researchers looking at mice and human lung tissue found that the amount of TMPRSS2 in our body increases as we age.
“The expression of TMPRSS2 increases significantly across the life span from very low in around birth to much higher levels in adulthood,” clarified Dr. Kropski.
The next step now is to use this information to provide an effective treatment.
“To start using some of these drugs that target TMPRSS2 expression to see if they can delay or prevent viral infectivity or replication,” elaborated Dr. Sucre.
And stop COVID-19 in its tracks.
TMPRSS2 has been studied in other diseases as well, specifically prostate cancer. There are already approved drugs that target the protein, so a potential therapy to target COVID can get a faster approval.