The novel coronavirus may not transmit from pregnant mothers to newborn babies at birth, according to a study published on Monday.
The study is the second out of China within the last month to confirm that mothers infected with COVID-19 disease during pregnancy did not pass the virus to their babies, said researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, was carried out on four women who gave birth at Wuhan's Union Hospital while infected.
Wuhan in China's Hubei Province is believed to be the epicentre of the current outbreak that has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 6,000.
None of the infants developed any serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever or cough, though all were initially isolated in neonatal intensive care units and fed formula, the researchers said.
Three of the four tested negative for the respiratory infection following a throat swab, while the fourth child's mother declined permission for the test, they said.
One newborn did experience a minor breathing issue for three days that was treated by non-invasive mechanical ventilation, according to the study.
Two babies, including the one with a respiratory problem, did have body rashes that eventually disappeared on their own.
"We are not sure the rash was due to the mother's COVID-19 infection," said study co-author Yalan Liu at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
All four infants remain healthy, and their mothers also fully recovered.
In the previous study on nine pregnant mothers infected with COVID-19, the researchers also found no evidence that the viral infection can pass to the child.
All nine births were done by cesarean section. Three of the four pregnancies in the current study were also brought to term by C-section.
"To avoid infections caused by perinatal and postnatal transmission, our obstetricians think that C-section may be safer," said Liu, who also works at Union Hospital.
"Only one pregnant mother adopted vaginal delivery because of the onset of the labour process. The baby was normal. Maybe vaginal delivery is OK. It needs further study," she said.
In previous coronavirus outbreaks, scientists found no evidence of viral transmission from mother to child, but SARS and MERS were both associated with "critical maternal illness, spontaneous abortion, or even maternal death," according to Liu.
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