Transmission of the new coronavirus to the fetus during pregnancy is possible, although rare, according to a study by Chinese researchers published Thursday.
The Chinese team, which published its findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, followed 33 pregnant women from Wuhan City, where the virus was first identified, and discovered that only three babies had been infected at birth, a rate of 9%.
"Because strict infection control and prevention procedures were taken during delivery, it is likely that the strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract and the anus of the newborns were of maternal," the Chinese researchers say.
SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the virus, which triggers the disease identified as Covid-19.
The three infected babies were all boys, born by cesarean section because their mothers had pneumonia due to coronavirus.
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One of them was premature, born after 31 weeks of pregnancy, and had to be resuscitated.
The other two babies were feverish and lethargic, and one of them had pneumonia. They were both placed in intensive care and tested negative for the virus on their 6th day.
The baby born prematurely was the most severely affected with pneumonia, breathing difficulties and sepsis. It was cured through intensive care treatments, including the use of a ventilator, antibiotics and caffeine, and tested negative for coronavirus on the 7th day.
All three survived.
Chinese experts had previously reported a case of so-called "vertical" transmission from mother to fetus when a baby tested positive 30 hours after birth.
Transmission can occur through the placenta or during childbirth.
"It is, therefore, crucial to test all pregnant women and to apply strict infection control measures, quarantine of infected mothers and close surveillance of newborns," the Chinese study concludes.