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Mother to child transmission of COVID-19 infection, possible but rare, study finds

Date:
March 17, 2022
Source:
University of Birmingham
Summary:
SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 infection, can be transmitted from mother to baby before, during and after childbirth -- but such occurrences are rare, a new study reveals.
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SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 infection, can be transmitted from mother to baby before, during and after childbirth -- but such occurrences are rare, a new study reveals.

Overall, fewer than two per cent of babies born to mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection also test positive for the virus, but they are more likely to test positive when the women have severe COVID-19 or were diagnosed after childbirth.

Experts also discovered that vaginal births and breast feeding do not increase the likelihood of babies testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 when their mothers have the infection.

An international research team, led by the University of Birmingham's WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Women's Health, published its findings today in BMJ after examining data from around the globe relating to more than 14,000 babies born to mothers with COVID-19.

Overall, 1.8% of the 14,271 babies born to mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection tested positive for the virus using PCR tests.

Study lead Shakila Thangaratinam, Professor of Maternal and Perinatal Health at the University of Birmingham, commented: "Ours is the first study to use the World Health Organization's stringent methods to show that it is possible for the virus to be spread from the mother to baby while in the womb, during childbirth, and after delivery.

"However, parents and healthcare professionals can be reassured that only a very small proportion of babies born to mothers with SARS-CoV-2 test positive. This implies that the risks of infection to such babies are rare.

"Mothers should also be reassured about the low risk of viral transmission through vaginal birth, skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding -- all of which should be encouraged."

Professor Thangaratinam added that healthcare professionals and policy makers need to be aware of the expected burden of SARS-CoV-2 positivity in babies, and that they can be infected at any time during pregnancy and delivery -- highlights the need for appropriate measures to reduce risk of viral transmission in the postnatal period.

The research team recommends that, since babies born to mothers with severe SARS-CoV-2 are more likely to test positive, they will need to be tested after birth and monitored closely. Vaccination in pregnancy should be further encouraged to prevent infection and severe disease in mothers.

The team will analyse new studies as further evidence becomes available and also explore the effects that SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and vaccination have on newborns.


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Materials provided by University of Birmingham. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal References:

  1. John Allotey, Shaunak Chatterjee, Tania Kew, Andrea Gaetano, Elena Stallings, Silvia Fernández-García, Magnus Yap, Jameela Sheikh, Heidi Lawson, Dyuti Coomar, Anushka Dixit, Dengyi Zhou, Rishab Balaji, Megan Littmoden, Yasmin King, Luke Debenham, Anna Clavé Llavall, Kehkashan Ansari, Gurimaan Sandhu, Adeolu Banjoko, Kate Walker, Keelin O’Donoghue, Madelon van Wely, Elizabeth van Leeuwen, Elena Kostova, Heinke Kunst, Asma Khalil, Vanessa Brizuela, Nathalie Broutet, Edna Kara, Caron Rahn Kim, Anna Thorson, Olufemi T Oladapo, Javier Zamora, Mercedes Bonet, Lynne Mofenson, Shakila Thangaratinam. SARS-CoV-2 positivity in offspring and timing of mother-to-child transmission: living systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2022; e067696 DOI: 10.1136/bmj-2021-067696
  2. Catherine McLean Pirkle. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from mother to baby is rare. BMJ, 2022; o593 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.o593

Cite This Page:

University of Birmingham. "Mother to child transmission of COVID-19 infection, possible but rare, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220317094734.htm>.
University of Birmingham. (2022, March 17). Mother to child transmission of COVID-19 infection, possible but rare, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 22, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220317094734.htm
University of Birmingham. "Mother to child transmission of COVID-19 infection, possible but rare, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220317094734.htm (accessed May 22, 2024).

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