Texas Mother Transmitted COVID-19 to Unborn Baby: Study

THURSDAY, Aug. 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A new case study adds to growing evidence that the new coronavirus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

"It's very important to bring to the forefront this finding that mothers and infants can be affected by COVID-19, transmission can occur during pregnancy, and pregnant mothers need to protect themselves," said Dr. Amanda Evans, senior author of the report.

"We don't know whether there are any long-term effects of COVID-19 infection in babies," she added. Evans is an assistant professor of pediatrics specializing in infectious diseases at UT Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center in Dallas.

The case involved a woman who was 34 weeks pregnant. She visited the emergency department at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas with signs of premature labor and was admitted when she tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Though the patient didn't have the typical respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19, she did have a fever and diarrhea, suggesting possible viral infection. Before going to the hospital, she didn't know she had the coronavirus.

After a few days in the hospital, the woman gave birth in early May to a 7-pound, 3-ounce girl who initially appeared healthy. After 24 hours, however, the baby developed a fever and signs of respiratory distress, including an abnormally high breathing rate and lower blood-oxygen levels. Tests showed that she had COVID-19.

Study first author Dr. Julide Sisman, an associate professor of pediatrics who cared for the newborn, said, "At that time, the knowledge we had was that transmission doesn't occur in utero, so we really weren't expecting that at all."

Further investigation showed the baby was infected while in the womb. Both mother and baby fully recovered, according to the case study published online recently in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

More than 20 million people worldwide have been infected with the new coronavirus, but data on how it affects pregnant women have been limited, the authors noted in a UTSW news release.

"The fact that this can occur, even if rare, illustrates how important it is to limit exposure for mothers and newborns," said Dr. Wilmer Moreno, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UTSW. "Anything, like telemedicine visits, that can eliminate the need for mom to be around other people will be very helpful."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus and pregnancy.

SOURCE: UT Southwestern Medical Center, news release, Aug. 24, 2020

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