Young infants show strong immune responses to SARS-CoV-2, new research has found. In particular, compared with adults, young infants produce relatively high levels of antibodies and immune cells that can specifically protect against COVID-19.
The study led by academics and paediatricians at the University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children is published in Cell Reports Medicine.
During the pandemic, children have been much less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, which is unexpected, especially in young infants who are known to be vulnerable to severe disease from other respiratory viruses, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and flu.
Early in the pandemic, it became evident young infants with COVID-19 who were being cared for by paediatricians at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children were only mildly affected by the disease.
With very little data published on the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 in young babies, the research team set out to examine antibody and cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in young infants compared with adults.
The research team evaluated convalescent immune responses in four infants under three months old with confirmed COVID-19 who presented in March 2020 with mild febrile illness, alongside their parents, and adult controls who had recovered from confirmed COVID-19.
The researchers found young infants produce relatively high levels of antibodies and immune cells that can specifically protect against COVID-19, compared with adults.
The findings could help explain why young infants appear protected from severe COVID-19, at a period of their life when they could be more vulnerable.
Dr Anu Goenka, Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said: “By conducting a detailed study on young infants who are relatively protected from severe COVID-19, we have shown what protective immunity 'looks like’, in terms of the make-up of specific antibodies and immune cells directed against SARS-CoV-2.
“This is very useful information for the design of future COVID-19 vaccines that could seek to induce and mimic the signature of this protective immunity.”
The research team would like to confirm their findings in a larger cohort of infants, as well as compare infant vs adult immune response during COVID-19 during and at several timepoints after their infection.
The work was supported by Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal, the dedicated charity for the children’s hospital, the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, Wellcome and UKRI.
‘Young infants exhibit robust functional antibody responses and restrained IFN-γ production to SARS-CoV-2’ by Anu Goenka et al in Cell Reports Medicine [open access]
Lingering cool weather earlier in the season has caused an explosion of spring flowers and bluebells at National Trust places across Surrey, including Winkworth Arboretum, Hatchlands Park and Polesden Lacey.
Moments not minutes spent in nature vital for feelings of wellbeing
Simple actions like smelling wildflowers, looking at blossom and watching pollinators, are important for feelings of wellbeing.
The bluebells are in full bloom now in Surrey.
After a cold spell at the beginning of spring, the recent warmer weather has brought with it an explosion of bluebells at National Trust gardens in Surrey, including Winkworth Arboretum and Hatchlands Park. Soon to be followed by boughs of apple blossom and fragrant wisteria in the gardens at Polesden Lacey.
Britain’s beautiful bluebell spring is a quintessential part of our native landscape. The soft blue haze of a sea of bluebells is a delight for senses.
A growing body of evidence suggests that moments each day noticing nature are vital for wellbeing . Further evidence also suggests that people derive many of the benefits from online engagement , by seeing images of spring flowers on social media.
Graham Alderton, National Trust Head Gardener for Winkworth Arboretum said: “The winter lockdown has made local enjoyment of spring flowers even more powerful, because it is nature’s reminder that life and renewal are returning.
“We've had an interesting period of weather recently. Whilst it has been mostly dry and sunny the temperature has been lower than average with quite a few frosty nights. This has put the bluebells back a week or so from last year.
“There are some lovely pockets of bluebells in flower all over the site but the plants in the cooler areas are still hanging on for a burst of warmth before they flower. It won't be long before there is a carpet of nodding blue flowers throughout the site.”
Here are some of the best places in Surrey to see bluebells this spring
From early May a beautiful carpet of bluebells covers the arboretum floor while perfuming the woodland air with their faint, honey scent. They thrive in the dappled sunlight of the coppiced areas at Winkworth. A walk through the hillside arboretum, in its blue haze of flowers, while listening to birdsong is one of the great treasures of spring.
Little Wix Wood at Hatchland Park is one of the finest bluebell woods in Surrey. This quiet patch of ancient woodland was first recorded in the Chertsey Chronicles during the 13th century. Take the Wix Woods Walk, following the blue way-marker posts, to get there.
Ranmore Common on the Polesden Lacey estate is one of Surrey’s best kept secrets for bluebells. The best way to find them is by following one of the waymarked routes across Ranmore Common from the gardens at Polesden Lacey or from one of the countryside carparks on Ranmore Common Road. Within the gardens themselves, there are bluebells scattered throughout Preserve Copse.
If you are visiting the bluebells at our gardens and woodlands please book your visit in advance from the National Trust’s website, especially at busier times such as weekends and bank holidays. If you do not book we cannot guarantee admission. Tickets are released every Friday for the week ahead. For more information visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/surrey