Doctors in Dallas believe a woman who tested positive for COVID-19 passed the virus to her child in the womb.
Findings out of UT Southwestern Medical Center were published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal online on July 10, 2020.
The baby girl was born prematurely, at 34-weeks' gestation at Parkland Memorial Hospital, and tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 infection at birth. She is believed to be one of the first known cases of intrauterine (in the womb) transmission of the disease, Parkland providers said.
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According to the study, the 37-year old woman tested positive for COVID-19 days before she gave birth.
The doctors write the mother was admitted to the hospital after she experienced intermittent sharp back pain, fever and diarrhea.
They write she tested positive for COVID-19 and gave birth a few days later.
The newborn appeared healthy, with normal breathing and other vital signs but within 24-28 hours, she developed fever and relatively mild breathing problems, the study said.
"It is unlikely that the respiratory distress observed in this infant was due to prematurity since it did not start until the second day of life," the researchers write.
The report said the baby tested positive for COVID-19, was treated with supplemental oxygen for several days but did not need mechanical ventilation.
Three weeks after her birth, the mother and infant were sent home in good condition.
Dr. John Thoppil, president of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wasn't part of the case but said more instances of babies born with COVID-19 have been reported around the world.
The number of pregnant women who become ill enough with COVID-19 to require hospitalization is also higher than anticipated, Thoppil said.
"We thought pregnant women seemed to be OK, now the CDC reported that the risk of needing respiratory support or ICU admission is probably in higher in pregnant women," he said.
Thirty-five of them have died, but according to Thoppil, most pregnant women make full recoveries.
According to Parkland Memorial Hospital, as of July 22, 78 infants born to COVID-19 positive mothers have been delivered at Parkland.
Of these infants, four have tested positive.
The authors of the study write that although data on COVID-19 remain very limited, "intrauterine transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appears to be a rare event."
They highlight several urgent priorities for further research, including the mechanisms and risk factors of in utero SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the outcomes of congenital COVID-19 in infants.