French doctors have recorded what they say is the first known case of a baby contracting the novel coronavirus in the womb. The child, born to a mother who'd tested positive for COVID-19, had brain inflammation linked to the virus, which passed into the infant's bloodstream through placenta, according to a case study published Tuesday in Nature Communications. Earlier studies indicated placental or cervical transmission could indeed occur, per Business Insider. But this was the first case in which doctors definitely ruled out the possibility that the baby was infected during or after birth. "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," lead author Daniele De Luca tells the Guardian. That's exactly what doctors at Paris' Antoine Béclère hospital did.
They maintain this is an extremely rare case. And "pregnant women should be reassured" because "it can be controlled" and "in most cases there will be no damage to the baby," De Luca says. The baby boy in this case experienced muscle spasms but recovered without specific medication and was discharged from the hospital after 18 days. He was delivered via C-section, and immediately isolated in an intensive care unit, after his 23-year-old mother, more than 35 weeks pregnant, showed up at the hospital with a fever and cough on March 24. Doctors determined the highest levels of the virus were in the placenta. But though MRI scans on the infant showed evidence of a neurological injury, a recent scan appeared "almost normal," De Luca tells the Guardian. The long-term effects are still unknown. (Read more coronavirus stories.)