Study adds to evidence women could pass coronavirus to fetus

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A small Italian study indicated transmission of the novel coronavirus between a pregnant woman and a fetus may be possible.

The study involved 31 infected women, all of whom delivered their babies in March and April, when Italy was a European and global epicenter of the virus, The Associated Press reported. Researchers said the virus was detectable in umbilical cord blood samples as well as placentas, as well as breast milk in the case of one of the women.

In one case, “there’s strong evidence suggesting that the newborn was born already positive because we found the virus in the umbilical cord blood and in the placenta,” Claudio Fenizia, an immunology specialist at the University of Milan, told the AP.

Fenizia, who presented the results of the study in an online conference, said the results alone were not definitive enough to change best practices for prenatal or postnatal care and that “it’s too early to make guidelines,” according to the AP.

He said further study of the issue is needed, and that data from women who contracted the virus earlier in their pregnancies would be particularly useful. He noted that the data still indicates fetal infection is possible but rare, as only two of the newborns involved in the study tested positive for the virus and neither actually became ill.

In the U.S., a study led by Ashley Roman of NYU Langone Health found viral particles on the fetal side of the placenta in several cases, according to the news service. Roman said that while both studies suggested such transmission is possible, pregnant women’s main takeaway should be to continue taking precautions.

“The most important thing that pregnant women need to know is it’s important to socially distance. It’s important to wear a mask, wash their hands,” she told the AP. “Women don’t need to be cut off from society entirely, but they should be concerned about the impact of getting COVID on their own health during pregnancy.”

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