Coronavirus: are children as contagious as adults?

This is a study by Professor Drosten’s team , nicknamed “the virologist of virologists”, because he was the first to set up a PCR test for covid-19 in Berlin, and to make it available to colleagues Europeans. 

The doctor, who works at the Charity Hospital in Germany, wanted to assess the viral load of SARS-COV-2 (scientific name of the virus), according to the age of the patient. Is it weaker in children ? 

The researchers analyzed the PCR test values ​​of 3,712 COVID-19 patients, correlating them to their age. They found no significant difference between the age categories, including for children.   

Call for caution for the reopening of schools

The study data indicate in particular that viral loads in very young patients do not differ significantly from that in adults. Based on these results, the authors conclude that caution should be exercised with regard to the unlimited reopening of schools and kindergartens in the current situation : ” children could be as contagious as adults “. 


From January to April 26 , 2020, the laboratories of Charité and Labor Berlin (a large Berlin laboratory) examined the PCR tests produced on 59,981 patients suspected of being contaminated with COVID-19 : 3712 (6.2% ) were positive. 

They divided the patients into 2 categories to see if there was a link between age group and viral load. The first classification was based on ranges of decades (children 1-10 years old, 11-20 years old, 21-30 … etc up to 100). The second classification was based on social strata : kindergartens (0-6 years), primary schools (7-11 years), universities (20-25 years), adults (26-45 years) and mature people (over 45).   

Sub-representation in tests

Since children are mostly asymptomatic, they are generally underrepresented in the tests. It is therefore difficult to determine their rate of infection and transmission. 

In addition, schools and nurseries are closed in Germany, as with us, which does not allow the transmission to be assessed under “normal” conditions. This set of elements could be misinterpreted, say the researchers, as evidence that children are less contagious.

But this study on viral load, to be confirmed on a larger scale, demonstrates the opposite.

Authors’ conclusion : ” The potential transmission in schools and kindergartens, kindergartens, should be assessed on the same basis of reflection as the contagion of adults. We recommend collecting and evaluating more viral data from testing laboratories to confirm and refine these results. In the absence of statistical evidence of a different viral load for children, we recommend caution in the face of the unlimited reopening of schools and kindergartens […]. be as contagious as adults . ” 

And in Belgium?

Following this study, Professor Herman Goossens of the University of Antwerp reacted via Twitter where he recommends staying cautious while recognizing that the study is interesting without however changing his position with regard to the role of children on broadcasting .   

Professor Herman Goossens
University Hospital Antwerp