Dr Patrick O'Brien, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and one of the UK's top doctors revealed that a 'small number of babies' seemed to have developed an immune response against COVID-19 while inside the womb.
This immune response, also known as antibodies are substances that are produced when there is an infection. They are stored by the immune system to fight off the same virus if it returns in the future.
Scientists said that IgM antibodies, which the bodies make when it first becomes infected, cannot be transmitted from the mother to its child through the placenta. This means that the babies might have developed antibodies on their own.
How Does a Baby Get Infected?
This somehow confirms the theory that mothers pass the life-threatening disease to their unborn children in the womb.
But some argued that babies with COVID-19 were catching it from their mother after birth, or from an infected midwife or doctor in a hospital.
The result was revealed in the UK's first major study on the effect of coronavirus on mothers-to-be, which was participated by 427 women positive with the virus. The report comes on the same day that a 13-day-old baby became Britain's youngest COVID-19 patient.
Dr O'Brien describes the result of the study from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) as 'very reassuring' and suggested that women and babies are not at an increased risk of infection.
Moreover, he said that like the rate in the general public, 10% of women in the study became seriously ill and had to be put on a ventilator.
It also found that 5% of the participants died during childbirth, but not all of these deaths were caused by COVID-19, says Dr O'Brien.
Around 5% also of the babies have tested positive for the virus, but generally lived well, he added. It was probably the case that most of these children caught the virus through the placenta of their mothers. But Dr O'Brien could still not rule out that the babies caught the virus from the parent, or midwife, or the doctor after birth.-
The researchers published their study in the British Medical Journal.
A Very Small Number of Babies Have Antibodies in Their Bodies
About 56% of women who had the coronavirus belongs to BAME backgrounds- Black Asian, and minority ethnic- according to Dr O'Brien. This statistics is "worrying" since most of the BAME groups are known to be more prone at catching the disease and falling severely ill, for reasons that scientists have not yet pinned down.
Furthermore, there was no increase in spontaneous premature births, Dr O'Brien said. He added that there is a possibility that babies can get infected through the placenta.
There is a very small number of babies have IgM antibodies in their blood. IgM does not cross the placenta, which suggests that these babies had developed an immune response while still inside the uterus.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still recommends the COVID-19 positive mothers to breastfeed their children. According to them, separating the babies from their mothers at birth is more detrimental than the risk of COVID-19 for infants.