The case of a French newborn who tested positive for COVID-19 adds to growing medical proof that birthing parents can pass the virus to babies in the womb. It’s a shift in opinion months in the making and one that doctors note is an extremely rare phenomenon.
Doctors in France confirmed that a baby boy conceived by a mother with COVID-19 in a Paris hospital had contracted the virus while in utero, according to findings published in peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications on Tuesday. Both the mother and her baby have since recovered.
“Unfortunately, there is no doubt about the transmission in this case,” lead researcher Dr. Daniele De Luca told the Guardian. “Clinicians must be aware that this may happen. It’s not common, that’s for sure, but it may happen and it must be considered in the clinical workout.”
A similar birth was recorded in Texas, reported the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal last week about a baby girl with COVID-19. Testing in both instances showed that the novel coronavirus spread from the parent’s blood and into the placenta.
Preliminary research from Italy surveyed 31 mothers with COVID-19 and discovered some viral samples in placentas and umbilical cord blood.
In the rare cases of babies born with COVID-19, they appear to have mild cases of the disease. Only two of the mothers’ children in Italy tested positive, but were asymptomatic. The Texas-based girl’s symptoms settled down a few days after birth and she was discharged from medical care after three weeks. The boy born in Paris recovered without treatment.
“The good news is that the baby recovered spontaneously and gradually despite all this, and this confirms that the disease is milder in early infancy,” De Luca told the New York Times.
In the pandemic’s early stages, Canadian birth professionals only stressed the potential for viral transmission between recent parents and babies through respiratory droplets. Currently, the Public Health Agency of Canada says there’s not enough evidence to suggest fetuses can contract COVID-19 in the womb.