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Snapshot Science: Can Mothers Transfer SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies to Their Newborns?

Published on
Feb 4, 2021
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SARS-CoV-2 antibodies

Pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies appear to pass those antibodies to their newborns.

shafere1 [at] chop.edu (By Emily Shafer)

The findings:

Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in the blood of pregnant women cross the placenta, and they are present at similar, or even higher, concentrations in the blood of their newborns.

Why it matters:

The findings suggest that mothers who have had COVID-19 or who had asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection can transfer antibodies to their newborns, which may provide some degree of protection for the newborn against the virus. This knowledge of placental transfer of antibodies contributes to the discussion regarding if and when to vaccinate pregnant women against SARS-CoV-2.

Who conducted the study:

Dustin Flannery, DO, MSCE, attending neonatologist at CHOP Newborn Care at Pennsylvania Hospital, and Sigrid Gouma, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, were co-first authors. The co-senior authors were Karen Puopolo, MD, PhD, associate professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, attending neonatologist at CHOP, and Chief of the Section of Newborn Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, and Scott Hensley, PhD, associate professor of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

How they did it:

The research team evaluated maternal and cord blood sera from 1,471 mother/newborn dyads at Pennsylvania Hospital for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. At the time of delivery, 83 women had antibodies, and 72 of newborns born to those women had antibodies in the cord blood. The mothers either had asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection or mild, moderate, or severe symptoms.

Quick thoughts:

“Our findings are consistent with what we know about placental transfer of antibodies to other infections,” Dr. Flannery said. “I think our findings contribute to the discussion about whether and when to vaccinate pregnant women against the virus.”

Where the study was published:

The study appeared in JAMA Pediatrics.