The Alarming New Way Coronavirus Can Be Transmitted, Study Finds

As if being pregnant wasn't hard enough, here's one more cause for concern.

There's no shortage of reasons to worry about coronavirus, but a new study has found one particularly troubling cause for alarm—especially if you happen to be pregnant. Researchers in Milan, Italy have found evidence to suggest that pregnant women that are infected with coronavirus may be able to transmit it to their fetuses via the placenta.

According to CNN, the study observed 31 cases of pregnant COVID patients, and found that two of the newborns tested positive for coronavirus upon delivery. Though the number of babies infected was low, this discovery indicates that mother-to-fetus transmission is possible. "This is the first ringing bell that should raise awareness about a topic that is not really well studied," said Claudio Fenizia, an assistant professor of immunology at the University of Milan, who led the study.

The research team further observed that in the cases of positive transmission, the placentas were inflamed—a symptom of infection. Coronavirus and antibodies were additionally found in the umbilical cord blood, and the mothers' breast milk. Seven of the mothers whose babies were not infected with coronavirus still transmitted the antibodies.

Due to the small sample size of the original study, the researchers themselves have suggested that more studies would need to be completed to in order inform patient care. This new insight is just one more piece of the complicated puzzle of how pregnancies can be affected by the virus: other studies have found that mothers may have an increased risk of severe illness, and discovered abnormal blood flow in the placenta even in cases where the babies are ultimately not infected.

Thankfully, both of the babies infected with the virus made swift recoveries, with one of the two newborns recovering just days after birth, suggesting that it was already producing antibodies and fighting off the virus in utero. Both babies were infected late in the pregnancies, and there were no subsequent developmental issues associated with their illnesses. And to learn more about how COVID is changing pregnancy as we know it, check out The Shocking Way Coronavirus Could Affect the Next Generation.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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