New York: Covid-19 can be transmitted in the womb, say researchers as a case study provides evidence of its intrauterine (in the womb) transmission from mother to infant.
A US baby girl born prematurely to a Covid-19 infected mother is the strongest evidence to date that intrauterine transmission can occur, according to the findings published in the Paediatric Infectious Disease Journal.
“Our study is the first to document intrauterine transmission of the infection during pregnancy, based on immunohistochemical and ultrastructural evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the fetal cells of the placenta,” said study lead author Amanda S. Evans from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in the US.
The authors report on an infant delivered to a mother diagnosed with Covid-19, who also had type 2 diabetes. The infant was born at 34 weeks’ gestation after the mother had premature rupture of membranes. The baby was born “large for gestational age” – a complication in infants of diabetic mothers.
She was treated in the neonatal ICU due to prematurity and possible coronavirus exposure. The infant initially appeared healthy, with normal breathing and other vital signs. On the second day of her life, she developed fever and relatively mild breathing problems.
“It’s unlikely that the respiratory distress observed in the infant was due to prematurity since it didn’t start until the second day of life,” the researchers wrote.
The study showed that the baby tested Covid-19 positive at 24 and 48 hours after birth. She was treated with supplemental oxygen for several days, but didn’t need mechanical ventilation. Covid-19 tests remained positive for up to 14 days. At 21 days, the mother and infant were sent home in good condition, the researchers said.
The researchers examined the placenta, which showed signs of tissue inflammation. Also, specialised tests documented presence of coronavirus particles as well as a protein (SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein) specific for the Covid-19 virus in fetal cells of the placenta. These findings confirmed the infection was transmitted in the womb, rather than during or after birth.
“We wanted to be very careful of our interpretation of this data. But now it’s even more important for pregnant women to protect themselves from Covid-19,” Evans noted.