MERS linked to stillbirth in pregnant woman

Payne D. J Infect Dis. 2014;doi:10.1093/infdis/jiu068.

  • February 14, 2014

Officials from the CDC and the Jordan Ministry of Health confirmed a second-trimester stillbirth in a pregnant woman with the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, coronavirus, according to a report in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“This is the first occurrence of stillbirth during an infection with MERS-[coronavirus] and may have bearing upon the surveillance and management of pregnant women in settings of unexplained respiratory illness potentially due to MERS-[coronavirus],” the investigators wrote. “Future prospective investigations of MERS-[coronavirus] should ascertain pregnancy status and obtain further pregnancy-related data, including biological specimens for confirmatory testing.”

As of Feb. 7, there have been 182 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS since September 2012, including 79 MERS-related deaths.

During the outbreak investigation of MERS in Jordan, the investigators identified a 39-year-old pregnant woman who had a stillbirth at approximately 5 months of gestation. She had a confirmed infection with MERS. On the seventh day of illness, she experienced vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain with her respiratory syndromes and spontaneously delivered the stillborn infant.

The woman developed respiratory symptoms 7 days after her husband, who also had a confirmed MERS infection, developed respiratory symptoms. She also had another close relative who died of MERS infection and reported unprotected exposure to both of these individuals during their symptomatic illness.

Before the stillbirth, she had regular antenatal care and no reported pregnancy complications. She refused medical care during her illness because of concerns about receiving X-rays and medications during pregnancy. She previously had six pregnancies that resulted in full-term live births. The six surviving children tested negative for MERS.

“We conclude that adverse maternal and birth outcomes observed during the [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus] epidemic and the H1N1 influenza pandemic are consistent with the possibility that MERS-[coronavirus] infection during pregnancy may pose serious health risks to both mother and fetus,” the researchers wrote.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.