COVID-19 can cross placenta, harm infants: Case study

A new case study found two infants born to mothers infected with COVID-19 suffered brain damage and offers the first direct evidence the SARS-CoV-2 virus can cross the placenta. 

The report from researchers at the University of Miami was published April 6 in Pediatrics. The babies were born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during their second trimester in 2020. Neither of the infants tested positive for COVID-19 at birth. However, both had detectable virus antibodies and increased blood inflammatory markers, "indicating that either antibodies crossed the placenta, or passage of the virus occurred and the immune response was the baby's," researchers said in a news release. 

On the day of their birth, each baby had seizures. The infants both had significant developmental delays overtime, and MRIs showed severe brain damage. Researchers also found evidence of the virus in the placenta from both mothers, along with other abnormalities. One of the infants died at 13 months, and an autopsy showed evidence of the virus in the child's brain. 

"This is the first study to confirm cross-placental SARS-CoV-2 transmission leading to brain injury in the newborn," researchers said

While the cases are rare, researchers say the findings underscore the importance of vaccination "as the first line of defense." 


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