COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

February 17, 2020
2 min read

Small study shows no vertical transmission of novel coronavirus

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Findings from a small observational study in China showed no evidence that the novel coronavirus at the center of a global outbreak is passed from mother to child during pregnancy.

The study was published in The Lancet in the wake of reports about an infant in China testing positive for the virus 36 hours after birth. The infant was born to a mother with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“It is important to note that many important clinical details of this case are missing, and for this reason, we cannot conclude from this one case whether intrauterine infection is possible,” Yuanzhen Zhang, chief physician in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, said in a news release. “Nonetheless, we should continue to pay special attention to newborns born to mothers with COVID-19 pneumonia to help prevent infections in this group.”

The study by Zhang and colleagues included nine infants born by cesarean section in the third trimester at Zhongnan Hospital from Jan. 20 to Jan. 31. No fetal deaths, neonatal deaths or neonatal asphyxia was observed.

They tested for vertical transmission by looking for the presence of the coronavirus in amniotic fluid, cord blood, breast milk and neonatal throat swab samples from six of the nine patients. All test results came back negative. They did not collect samples of vaginal mucosa or shedding in the birth canal, and thus could not determine whether the virus can be transmitted during vaginal birth.

“Existing studies into the effects of COVID-19 apply to the general population, and there is limited information about the virus in pregnant women,” a second researcher on the study, Huixia YangMD, from Peking University First Hospital, said in the release. “This is important to study because pregnant women can be particularly susceptible to respiratory pathogens and severe pneumonia, because they are immunocompromised and because of pregnancy-related physiological changes which leave them at higher risks of poor outcomes.”

A separate study published in JAMA reported no severe outcomes among nine infants aged between 1 and 11 months who were hospitalized with the coronavirus between Dec. 8 and Feb. 6. in China.

Families of all nine infants had at least one infected family member, and all nine infant infections occurred after their family members’ infection. Seven infants had a direct link to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak; one did not; and there was no available information for the other patient.

According to the study, none of the infants required intensive care or mechanical ventilation or had any severe complications from their infection. – by Ken Downey Jr.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.