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Sars-Cov2 not detected in a pediatric population with acute respiratory infection in primary care in Central and Southern Italy from November 2019 to early March 2020.

Rizzo, C., Loconsole, D., Pandolfi, E., Ciofi Degli Atti, M., Summeren, J. van, Paget, J., Russo, L., Campagna, I., Croci, I., Gesualdo, F., Concato, C., Linardos, G., Bartolucci, V., Ciampini, S., Onetti Muda, A., Raponi, M., Chironna, M. Sars-Cov2 not detected in a pediatric population with acute respiratory infection in primary care in Central and Southern Italy from November 2019 to early March 2020. Frontiers in Pediatrics: 2021, 9, 620598
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Background
In December 2019, a novel coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 started circulating in China and this led to a major epidemic in Northern Italy between February and May 2020. Young children (aged <5 years) seem to be less affected by this coronavirus disease (COVID-19) compared to adults, although there is very little information on the circulation of this new virus among children in Italy. We retrospectively tested nasopharyngeal swabs for SARS-CoV-2 in samples collected in young children between November, 2019 and March, 2020 in the context of the RSV ComNet study.

Methods
Two networks of primary care pediatricians in Lazio (Central Italy) and Puglia (Southern Italy) collected nasopharyngeal swabs from children, aged <5 years, presenting with symptoms for an acute respiratory infection (ARI). The RSV ComNet study is a multicenter study implemented to estimate the burden of RSV in young children (aged <5 years) in the community. Swabs were sent to a central reference laboratory and tested for 14 respiratory viruses through RT-PCR. All collected samples were retrospectively tested for SARS-CoV-2 using RT-PCR (Istituto Superiore di Sanità protocol).

Results
A total of 293 children with ARI were identified in the two participating networks. The highest number of cases were recruited in weeks 51/2019 and 3/2020. The majority of patients (57%) came from the Lazio region. All of the 293 samples tested negative for SARS-Cov2. Rhinovirus was the most frequently detected virus (44%), followed by RSV (41%) and influenza viruses (14%).

Conclusions
Our study shows that in Lazio (a region of intermediate SARS-COV-2 incidence) and Puglia (a region of low incidence), the SARS-Cov2 virus did not circulate in a sample of ARI pediatric cases consulting primary care pediatricians between November 2019 and March 2020.