Beijing: Amid the novel coronavirus scare around the globe, some good news has emerged about the COVID-19. Chinese researchers have revealed that viral infection is not transmittable from pregnant mothers to newborns at birth.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, is the second out of China within the last month to confirm that mothers infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during pregnancy did not infect their babies.
All four mothers in the current study, which focused on the health of the newborns, gave birth at Wuhan's Union Hospital in China while infected. Wuhan in Hubei Province is believed to be the epicenter of the current outbreak.
According to the researcher at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, none of the infants developed any serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever or cough, though all were initially isolated in neonatal intensive care units and fed formula.
Three of the four tested negative for the respiratory infection following a throat swab, while the fourth child's mother declined permission for the test, the researchers said.
One newborn did experience a minor breathing issue for three days that was treated by non-invasive mechanical ventilation. Two babies, including the one with a respiratory problem, did have body rashes that eventually disappeared on their own.
"It's impossible to conclude whether there's a connection between these other medical issues and COVID-19. "We are not sure the rash was due to the mother's COVID-19 infection," said study co-author Dr. Yalan Liu from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
In the previous retrospective study on nine pregnant mothers infected with COVID-19, researchers also found no evidence that the viral infection can pass to the child.
All nine births were done by cesarean section. Three of the four pregnancies in the current study were also brought to term by C-section.
"To avoid infections caused by perinatal and postnatal transmission, our obstetricians think that C-section may be safer," Liu said.
"Only one pregnant mother adopted vaginal delivery because of the onset of the labor process. The baby was normal. Maybe vaginal delivery is OK. It needs further study," Liu added.
In previous coronavirus outbreaks, scientists found no evidence of viral transmission from mother to child, but SARS and MERS were both associated with "critical maternal illness, spontaneous abortion, or even maternal death," according to Liu.
The authors said further investigations into other aspects of potential COVID-19 infection in newborns and children are needed.
For example, the sensitivity of the current diagnostic test for detecting the virus is about 71 per cent, so they suggest evaluating its reliability in children.
Toward that end, the researchers are collecting additional samples from the newborns, including placenta, amniotic fluid, neonatal blood and gastric fluid, among others, to detect possible receptors for the virus.