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Clinical characteristics and vertical transmission of COVID-19 in pregnant women

A recent retrospective study analyzed the clinical characteristics and potential for vertical transmission of COVID-19 in pregnant women.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is highly infectious and has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization. It was first reported in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. With the subsequent risks of the spread of the infection, several researchers are working together to find answers to urgent questions including the symptoms, transmission mechanism, clinical and laboratory characteristics, and treatment in adults. However, research needs to be expanded to pregnant women to address the possible risks of vertical transmission to the fetus, as well as the clinical characteristics of the coronavirus in pregnant women.

A recent study published in The Lancet evaluated the clinical characteristics and potential intrauterine (vertical) transmission (direct transmission of the pathogen from the mother to the child before or after birth) of COVID-19 in pregnancy. Nine pregnant women infected with COVID-19 were examined. They collected samples including amniotic fluid, breast milk, cord blood, and neonatal nasopharyngeal swabs at birth, along with an analysis of the medical records of pregnant women.

The researchers found a similarity in clinical characteristics between non-pregnant and pregnant adults, with the most common symptoms including fever and cough. Less common symptoms included myalgia, sore throat, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. The women delivered their babies via c-section. The researchers observed no fetal or neonatal death, no viral RNA was detected from samples obtained during birth (breast milk, swabs, amniotic fluid, and cord blood). The researchers found no evidence for intrauterine vertical transmission of COVID-19.

This study evaluated an important aspect of COVID-19 studies. The current study was limited by the sample size, however, it may help to provide an important understanding of the vertical transmission of the disease in pregnant women.

Written by Sakina Bano Mendha


Chen, H., Guo, J., Wang, C., Luo, F., Yu, X., Zhang, W., … Zhang, Y. (2020). Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. The Lancet. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30360-3

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay 



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