Mothers positive for the COVID-19 can transmit the virus to their unborn children, according to “strong evidence” unveiled Thursday by researchers whose work could have an impact on the protection of pregnant women during the pandemic.
Although there have been isolated cases of babies infected by the new coronavirus, these results show the strongest link to date on the transmission from mother to child.
The researchers studied 31 pregnant women hospitalized infected and have found the virus in a placenta at term, the umbilical cord, a woman’s vagina and in breast milk.
They have also identified specific antibodies of the Covid-19 in the umbilical cords in several women, as well as in milk samples.
Claudio Fenizia, of the University of Milan and senior author of the study, said that the results “strongly suggest” that in-utero transmission is possible.
“Given the number of people infected in the world, the number of women likely to be affected by this phenomenon could be potentially very high,” he explained to AFP.
None of the infants born during the study period was positive for the COVID-19, underlined the researcher.
“Although in-utero transmission appears to be possible, it is too early to clearly assess the risk and potential consequences “, he said.
The world health Organization (WHO) said last month that mothers infected by the new coronavirus should continue to breastfeed.
“We know that children are at a relatively low risk of Covid-19, but are at high risk of many other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents” said the director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Among other discoveries, the team has identified an inflammatory response to a specific triggered by the COVID-19 in these women in the blood plasma of the placenta and the umbilical cord.
The women studied were all in their third trimester of pregnancy, said the researcher, adding that more research is underway among women positive for the COVID-19 in the early stages of pregnancy.
“Our study aims to raise awareness and to invite the scientific community to consider pregnancy among hiv-positive women as a subject that is urgent to characterize and dissect further “, has launched the Pr Fenizia.
“I believe that the promotion of the prevention board is the most sure we could possibly give now to these patients “.
The study was made public at the 23rd international conference on aids, held this week, for the first time online because of the pandemic of COVID-19.