For two years and counting, the scientific and medical establishments have urged Americans at all risk levels to limit their exposure to the microbial world to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19, rather than focus on protecting the vulnerable.
The unexpected surge of other pathogens starting last summer, however, has challenged the wisdom of frequent sanitizing, social distancing, remote work and education, and routine mask-wearing, especially applied to children.
Infectious disease experts who waged a lonely crusade against the evasion consensus are now finding more mainstream attention for their arguments. Another is even calling for the CDC to be stripped of power for failure to properly study the effectiveness of various COVID mitigations.
Societies that tried to avoid COVID have “far less recently acquired immunity” and now face “wonkiness” in immune responses to routinely circulating pathogens, epidemics journalist and onetime CDC embed Helen Braswell wrote in health publisher STAT last week.
The evasion strategy may help explain the untimely surges of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in kids last summer and this spring’s flu hospitalizations, as well as monkeypox’s spread far beyond Africa, she said. An otherwise mild adenovirus may have played a role in an unprecedented spate of “severe hepatitis in healthy young children.”
Dutch scientists told STAT that children are at particular risk because so many have barely had microbial exposure beyond their households.
Marion Koopman’s team at Erasmus Medical Center’s Department of Viroscience found a dearth of antibodies to common respiratory viruses in young children’s blood, while clinical virologist Hubert Nesters suspects pregnant mothers who sheltered more than usual passed on fewer antibodies to children born during the pandemic.
Lockdowns, masking, distancing and “widespread use of disinfectants” worsened a long-term trend of decreasing “microbial diversity” partly caused by already “ubiquitous” sanitizing protocols and likely contributed to the pediatric RSV and hepatitis surges, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases scientist Mar…