COVID-19 as it is now officially designated emerged recently, with the first cases coming in the city of Wuhan in China in December. Experts have faced a race against time to learn as much as possible about the virus, which has killed more than 1,300 people, as they look to develop a cure.
Now, one study has revealed whether it is possible for a pregnant mother to transfer the virus to her unborn child.
The case study, which was relatively small involving only pregnant women in their third trimester (27 weeks onwards) and who gave birth to their children via cesarean section (C-section).
The study from Chinese health professionals found it is unlikely a pregnant mother can transfer COVID-19 to their children before they are born.
The results published in the science journal The Lancet said: “The clinical characteristics of COVID-19 pneumonia in pregnant women were similar to those reported for non-pregnant adult patients who developed COVID-19 pneumonia.
“Findings from this small group of cases suggest that there is currently no evidence for intrauterine infection caused by vertical transmission in women who develop COVID-19 pneumonia in late pregnancy.”
However, the case study was so minor, only monitoring nine patients, so the authors behind the study stated more research should be done on the subject.
Study lead author Yuanzhen Zhang, a professor at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China, said: “We should continue to pay special [attention] to newborns born to mothers with COVID-19.”
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found children under the age of 15 are less susceptible to the ailment.
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Richard Martinello, an associate professor of infectious disease at the Yale School of Medicine, told Business Insider: “From everything that we’ve seen, and for reasons that are unclear to us, it does seem that this is primarily impacting adults.
“Some of the reports that have come out so far from China have been from adult hospitals and not paediatric hospitals, so it could just be that we’re not seeing that data yet.”
However, the discovery children are less susceptible to the virus is good for the overall population.
Children are less likely to cover their mouths when they cough nor thoroughly wash their hands – two behaviours which contribute to the spread of germs.
Aaron Milstone, an epidemiologist and professor of paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, said: “If we can protect kids – one, it’s good for them, but two, it’s good for the population.
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“If it does penetrate the paediatric population, that might amplify the outbreak.”
A previous study from Chinese health officials found the average age of the patients who contracted coronavirus is 55, and half of the people studied were already were suffering from a pre-existing chronic disease.
Perhaps the most surprising find however is that the virus seems to infect more males than females.
The research points out that 68 percent of people infected by the virus were males, with the researchers struggling to understand why.
However, they do theorise: “The reduced susceptibility of females to viral infections could be attributed to the protection from X chromosome and sex hormones, which play an important role in innate and adaptive immunity.”