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Hospital confirms first case of coronavirus contracted by foetus in utero

“The bad news is the virus is attacking the baby, reaching the baby and causing symptoms.”

A 23-year-old mum diagnosed with coronavirus in her third trimester passed the virus on to her baby in utero, doctors have found.

“There is no doubt about the transmission in this case,” Daniele De Luca, medical director of paediatrics and neonatal critical care at a Paris hospital told The Guardian.

The young mum was admitted to hospital in late March with a fever and severe cough and tested positive for coronavirus.

Three days later the baby began to show signs of foetal distress. The woman had an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic and the baby was isolated in neonatal intensive care and intubated because of side effects from the anaesthetic.

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“There have been some suspected cases, but this is the first confirmed”

The hospital conducted blood and lung fluid tests and discovered the baby was positive for COVID-19. It was found that the virus crossed the placenta and infected the baby.

“The reason this has not been demonstrated before is that you need a lot of samples,” said De Luca. “You need the maternal blood, the newborn blood, the cord blood, the placenta, the amniotic fluid, and it’s extremely difficult to get all these samples in a pandemic with emergencies all around.

“There have been some suspected cases, but they remain suspected because nobody had the opportunity to test all of this and check the pathology of the placenta.”

The newborn boy was well at first, but at three days old he began to deteriorate.

Muscle spasms made his head, neck and back arch, which is a symptom sometimes seen in meningitis. Scans showed signs of a brain injury which can lead to scarring on the brain.

The baby began to recover without treatment and a recent follow-up scan was “almost normal”.

According to Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at London’s King’s College, a case like this is rare. “In 244 live born babies of infected mothers in the UK, 95 percent had no signs of the virus.”

The woman arrived in hospital with fever and a cough and tested positive for COVID-19. Photo: iStock

Read about the pregnant woman who was forced to terminate due to coronavirus and the woman who wondered if she was selfish to fall pregnant during the pandemic.

“The bad news is the virus is attacking the baby”

“You can see the glass half empty or half full,” De Luca said.

“The bad news is that in this case history, the virus is attacking the baby, reaching the baby and causing symptoms.

“The good news is that at the end of the day, the baby very much recovered. The baby is clinically fine.”

He went on to say that pregnant women should feel reassured, rather than worried, about the case.

“Pregnancy is very controlled and if you have something like this, it can be controlled. In most cases there will be no damage to the baby. There are many things we can do, but we can’t close our eyes and say this is never going to happen.”

De Luca recommends pregnant women wash their hands and practice social distancing to protect themselves in the pandemic.

“This is very much common sense and important whether you are pregnant or not.”

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