Coronavirus pandemic: Newborns might not get virus from their infected mothers, shows a new study of 4 infants
The results support a previous study on nine pregnant women in Wuhan which said that the new coronavirus cannot be passed from mother to child while in the womb
While not much is currently known about whether or to what extent a newborn might be affected if the mother is infected with COVID-19, a new study sheds some light on it, and it offers some hope. The study findings suggest that COVID-19 is not transmitted from pregnant mothers to newborns.
The research team from China found that three infants -- born to pregnant women, who were confirmed to have COVID-19 infection in Wuhan -- did not test positive for the virus. The study is the second out of China within the last month to confirm that mothers infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy did not infect their babies.
“During this epidemic, four live-born infants were born in our medical center, to pregnant women with the COVID-19 infection. Three of the four pregnant women gave birth by cesarean section due to concerns about symptomatic maternal infection. The other infant was born by vaginal delivery to a mother experiencing fever (highest temperature 38.3°C), with a diagnostically confirmed infection,” say researchers in the study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics.
According to the researchers, the most important question was whether the COVID-19 could be transmitted vertically to the fetus from the pregnant mother and cause a “clinically significant infection?”
All four mothers in the current study, which focused on the health of the newborns, gave birth at Wuhan's Union Hospital while infected. The infants were isolated from their mothers immediately after birth and received formula feeding.
Three of the four infants tested negative for COVID-19 using a throat swab specimen after birth. The parents of the fourth child did not provide consent for their baby to be tested for COVID-19. Based on their analysis, the researchers say that it does not appear that the viral infection is transmittable from pregnant mothers to newborns at birth. “No COVID-19 vertical transmission was detected,” they conclude.
None of the infants developed serious clinical symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever, cough, diarrhea, or “abnormal radiologic or hematologic evidence,” and all four infants were alive at the time of hospital discharge.
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, had body rashes that eventually disappeared on their own.
“Two infants had rashes of unknown etiology at birth, and one had facial ulcerations. One infant had tachypnea and was supported by non-invasive mechanical ventilation for 3 days. One had rashes at birth but was discharged without parental consent for a diagnostic test,” says the analysis.
The researchers say it is impossible to conclude whether there is a connection between these other medical issues and COVID-19. "We are not sure the rash was due to the mother's COVID-19 infection," says study co-author Dr. Yalan Liu at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in the analysis. She also works in the Department of Pediatric at Union Hospital.
At follow-up, the four newborns were healthy and had grown on formula feeding. According to the researchers, this feature reveals that none of the four newborns of the mothers with COVID-19 developed COVID-19 infection. The mothers have also fully recovered.
The results of this study support evidence from a previous one. Preliminary evidence from a previous observational study had said that the new coronavirus cannot be passed from mother to child while in the womb.
The Lancet study was done after the news of a newborn (born to a mother infected with COVID-19) testing positive for COVID-19 infection within 36 hours of birth, which prompted questions about whether the virus could be contracted in the womb.
The study involved nine pregnant women from Wuhan, who were in the third trimester of pregnancy and had pneumonia caused by COVID-19.
The researchers concluded that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 causes severe adverse outcomes in neonates or that it can pass to the child while in the womb. “Findings from this small group of cases suggest that there is currently no evidence for intrauterine infection caused by vertical transmission in women who develop COVID-19 pneumonia in late pregnancy,” says the research team.