A big source of anxiety during the pandemic came from the unknown impact of COVID-19 on pregnant people and their soon-to-be-born children. It has been observed that other viruses, such as HIV and rubella, can pass from mother to fetus through a process called vertical transmission.
A research group from Ludwig Maximilian University wanted to see if this was the case with the coronavirus. Head scientist Sophia Stöcklein said: “So far, although there are a few reports of vertical transmission to the fetus, the exact risk and impact remain largely unclear. The aim of our study was to fill this gap in knowledge regarding the impact of maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection on fetal brain development.”
The study consisted of carrying out MRI scans of 33 volunteers, each of which was pregnant and had contracted Covid-19. Only mothers with mild to moderate symptoms were included in the study, with their most common being; coughing, fever, shortness of breath, and a reduced sense of smell and taste. The fetal MRI scans were carried out at all stages of development, with two experienced radiologists evaluating the scans.
“In our study, there was no evidence that a maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection has any effect on the brain development of the unborn child,” Dr. Stöcklein stated. “This fact should help to reassure affected parents.”
The children involved in the study will be monitored for a further five years, in order to completely assess neurological development. As this study has not been carried out on participants which have contracted a severe case of coronavirus, the results should be interpreted with caution.