Researchers were able to closely monitor the transmission of the coronavirus through the placenta. A pregnant woman suspected of having Covid-19 was taken to Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden.
She suffered from severe abdominal pain when doctors found the baby had an abnormally low heart rate, which could be a sign of a lack of oxygen.
The baby had been infected before birth
The doctors decided to give birth by caesarean section, so the birth was premature in the 34th week of pregnancy. The baby was delivered within minutes and the doctors immediately took throat swabs from the mother and child. This confirmed that both had Covid-19, reports ScienceAlert.
The researchers sequenced the genome of the virus and found that the viral genome of the mother and child was the same. Because the baby was separated and isolated from the mother directly after the caesarean section, the researchers were able to confirm that the baby had been infected before birth.
And the virus quickly mutated
However, five days later, during new genetic sequencing, the researchers discovered that the baby was no longer just presenting its mother’s strain of virus, but also a mutated version of the virus. Scientists suspect that this ultrafast mutation (called A107G) was stimulated by the child’s contact with the environment outside the womb.
Infant Antibody Neutralized Virus
Apart from that, the researchers also observed changes in the mother’s placenta. The latter, responsible for transporting blood and nutrients to the fetus and removing waste products to ensure the fetus’s growth and well-being, was damaged and had general inflammation. The researchers also found coronavirus proteins in areas damaged by inflammation.
Infant antibody-neutralized virus (photo illustration). Photo credit: Shutterstock /
Fortunately, the mother recovered quickly from her coronavirus infection and was discharged from the hospital four days after giving birth. The baby still had to be reborn, but the researchers were surprised to find that the child’s body had developed antibodies to the virus that eventually neutralized it.
The researchers said in their study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that their study was one of the few scientific articles that examined placental transmission of the coronavirus. In light of their results, the researchers see the need to rethink the monitoring of pregnant women with Covid-19, who represent a higher risk group than previously thought.