Doctors at a Paris-region hospital reported the first confirmed case of a baby being born with Covid-19 after being infected by the mother in the womb, in a study published Tuesday. Data indicated it was a rare phenomenon.
The baby boy began showing neurological symptoms linked to Covid-19 shortly after he was born in March and recovered before doctors could settle on a treatment.
Symptoms including severe rigidity, damage to white matter in the brain and extreme irritability appeared 24 hours after birth and has mostly disappeared after three weeks.
The 23-year-old mother, who showed symptoms of the disease caused by the new coronavirus at the time of the birth, has also fully recovered.
Authors of the study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, said it was the first confirmed case of a baby being infected with Covid-19 in utero.
“We have shown that the transmission from the mother to the foetus across the placenta is possible during the last weeks of pregnancy,” lead author Daniele De Luca, a doctor at Antoine-Béclère Hospital near Paris, told AFP Agency.
Research confirms what was expected
Researchers previously suspected transmission was possible but only had circumstantial evidence.
The baby in the study was delivered by caesarean section and it was possible to keep intact samples of placenta, amniotic fluid and the blood of mother and infant, De Luca said.
The concentration of the virus was highest in the placenta, from which it passed through the umbilical cord to the baby.
“The bad news is that this actually happened, and can happen,” De Luca told AFP. “The good news is that it is rare, very rare compared to the global population.
Infant Covid infections very rare
Marian Knight, a professor of maternal and child health at the University of Oxford uninvolved with the French study, said it was rare for babies born to mothers with Covid-19 to show signs of infection.
She said of thousands of babies born to mothers with Covid-19, no more than 1 or 2 percent have tested positive for the virus, and ever fewer show serious symptoms, she told AFP.
“The most important message for pregnant women remains to avoid infection through paying attention to hand washing and social distancing measures,” she said.