Pune: A study from Maharashtra has found clear evidence that mothers with Covid-19 can transmit the virus to their newborns and in some instances, infants can also be born with the infection.

Experts from Pune’s BJ Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital and Mumbai’s National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health studied 304 newborns (from 301 mothers) and found that one in 15 babies contracted Covid from the mother – a positivity rate of 6.5%. 

All the women had undergone deliveries at BJ Medical College, where experts conducted the study from June 2020 to December 2021.

Six of the 20 Covid-positive babies went on to develop severe symptoms and had a prolonged ICU stay, the researchers said. But none of the infants died. “In fact, follow-ups with the babies who recovered (including those who were critical) revealed that all of them are now healthy and doing well,” said lead researcher Dr Aarti Kinikar, from the BJ Government Medical College.

The study of Covid transmission from mothers to newborns found that infants can develop serious symptoms even if the mothers have been asymptomatic.

Dr Vinayak Kale, dean of BJ Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital said, “We found that asymptomatic mothers can also transmit Covid to their babies, who could then develop symptoms. Of the six symptomatic babies part of the study, four were born to asymptomatic mothers,” he said.

Dr Kinikar said patient outcomes are good, as long as protocols are in place and the mother is aware she has Covid. “The baby can even be breastfed by her. The mother only has to follow protocols, including wearing a mask while feeding,” she said.

Dr Kinikar said pediatricians should be aware of the possibility of transmission from mother to baby in-utero, or at the time of delivery. “This threat always exists, though it can be minimized if the mother is asymptomatic or fully vaccinated. We are seeing newborns with not just Covid, but some with Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) as well,” she said. Dr Kinikar said of the total 20 newborns found positive in the study, 12 were positive only in the nasopharyngeal swab, four cases had infections in the umbilical stump, three were positive in the placenta, and one case was positive in all the three specimens collected.

She said, “Placenta and umbilical swabs in some cases were found to be positive, which indicated that Covid transmission to the baby had already occured in the uterus. Babies positive only in the nasopharyngeal swabs tests suggests the infection spread in the uterus or at the time of delivery or after that. If the baby is symptomatic when delivered, it indicates that it may have already caught the infection while in the uterus.