Scientists have analysed 176 reported cases of novel coronavirus infections in newborn infants, and found that while 30 per cent of the babies may have contracted the virus from the mother, breastfeeding was not associated with COVID-19.
The researchers, including Daniele De Luca from Paris Saclay University Hospitals in France, performed a meta-analysis of published cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in neonates as defined by at least one positive nasopharyngeal swab test and/or the detection of specific antibodies in the blood.
Of the 176 cases analysed, the study published in the journal Nature Communications, found that 70 per cent of the cases resulted from environmental exposure while the remaining were likely the result of vertical transmission of the virus from mother to baby.
The study noted that around nine per cent of the 176 cases were confirmed to be as a result of vertical transmission with infection acquired before or during childbirth.
In the analysis, 97 infants went on to develop COVID-19 with clinical manifestations similar to those reported in older patients, including respiratory, fever, and gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms.
When looking at infections that occurred at least 72 hours after birth, the researchers found that infants in the sample who stayed in a crib next to their mother in hospital appeared to have a higher incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
They said if rooming-in takes place, then appropriate hygiene measures and protective equipment should be made available to reduce the risk of transmission as a result of environmental exposure.
According to the scientists, breastfeeding was not associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.
They said viral transmission through milk is rare, if at all, but added that further studies are needed to confirm this.
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