Pregnant Mums Unlikely To Transmit COVID-19 To Newborns

Four babies born to SARS-CoV-2-infected mothers did not show signs of infection and remain healthy, according to case reports.

AsianScientist (Mar. 23, 2020) – A second study has shown that mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 do not pass the disease on to their newborns during birth. These findings have been published in Frontiers in Pediatrics.

All four mothers in the present study, which focused on the health of the newborns, gave birth at Wuhan’s Union Hospital while infected. Wuhan in Hubei Province is believed to be the epicenter of the current outbreak that has sickened more than 100,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,400, most of them in China.

None of the infants developed any serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever or cough, though all were initially isolated in neonatal intensive care units and fed formula. Three of the four tested negative for the respiratory infection following a throat swab, while the fourth child’s mother declined permission for the test.

One newborn did experience a minor breathing issue for three days that was treated by non-invasive mechanical ventilation. Two babies, including the one with a respiratory problem, did have body rashes that eventually disappeared on their own. All four infants remain healthy, and their mothers also fully recovered.

“We are not sure [whether] the rash was due to the mother’s COVID-19 infection,” said study co-author Dr. Liu Yalan of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China. Liu also works at Union Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics.

In a previous retrospective study on nine pregnant mothers infected with COVID-19, researchers also found no evidence that the viral infection passes to the child during birth. All nine births were done by cesarean section. Three of the four pregnancies in the current study were also brought to term by C-section.

“To avoid infections caused by perinatal and postnatal transmission, our obstetricians think that C-section may be safer,” Liu said. “Only one pregnant mother adopted vaginal delivery because of the onset of the labor process. The baby was normal. Maybe vaginal delivery is OK. It needs further study.”

In previous coronavirus outbreaks, scientists found no evidence of viral transmission from mother to child, but SARS and MERS were both associated with “critical maternal illness, spontaneous abortion, or even maternal death,” according to Liu.

Globally, an estimated 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected. However, transmission and fatality rates are currently subject to revision as more research is done on the virus.

The authors said further investigations into other aspects of potential COVID-19 infection in newborns and children are needed. For example, the sensitivity of the current diagnostic test for detecting the virus is about 71 percent, so they suggest evaluating its reliability in children.

Towards that end, the researchers are collecting additional samples from the newborns, including placenta, amniotic fluid, neonatal blood and gastric fluid, among others, to detect possible receptors for the virus.

The article can be found at: Chen et al. (2020) Infants Born to Mothers With a New Coronavirus (COVID-19).


Source: Frontiers; Photo: Unsplash.
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