Newborn May Have Contracted Coronavirus in Womb

FRIDAY, May 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) — A Canadian newborn is a “probable” case of infection with the new coronavirus while still in the womb, doctors report.

Other such cases have been suspected and reported in prior studies. But the mother’s active case of COVID-19, along with the fact that the baby boy was delivered via C-section, add weight to the notion that maternal-fetal transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can occur, the Toronto doctors concluded.

There was good news, however: Although the baby was born preterm (about 36 weeks), he was a healthy 6.5 pounds. And even though testing positive for coronavirus, he did not develop COVID-19.

Still, the case “represents a probable case of congenital SARS-CoV-2 infection in a liveborn neonate,” said researchers led by pediatrician Dr. Prakesh Shah, of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. They published their report May 14 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

As Shah’s group noted, prior studies from China have already confirmed coronavirus infection in newborns born to women infected with the new coronavirus. But it’s been tough to ascertain whether the infant picked up the infection via contact with the vaginal canal during birth, or by being held by the mother, or by breastfeeding.

In the new case, a 40-year-old pregnant woman arrived at the hospital to deliver her baby. She was already suffering from active COVID-19, with body aches, reduced appetite, fatigue, dry cough and a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Luckily, she did not require any respiratory support, her doctors said, but it was decided that the woman undergo a “semi-urgent” C-section.

Her baby boy was “vigorous” upon birth and didn’t require any help breathing. However, nasal swab tests conducted at birth, one day after, and then again seven days after, all turned up positive for infection with the new coronavirus.

It’s impossible to confirm that the infant contracted the virus while still in the womb, but Shah’s team wrote that the woman did have reduced immune system function, which would leave her body more vulnerable to the virus.

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