A new study has revealed that antibodies that protect against the coronavirus can get transferred from mother to infant during pregnancy.
The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Pediatrics indicated that a pregnant mother passes some level of protection to her child against coronavirus.
The researchers found that efficient transplacental transfer of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies supports the potential for maternally derived antibodies to provide neonatal protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
In the cohort study, maternal IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 were transferred across the placenta after asymptomatic as well as symptomatic infection during pregnancy and cord blood antibody concentrations correlated with maternal antibody concentrations and with a duration between onset of infection and delivery.
The researchers said their findings demonstrate the potential for maternally derived SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies to provide neonatal protection from coronavirus disease 2019.
“Our findings align with current evidence that suggests that although placental and neonatal SARS-CoV-2 transmission may occur, such events are not common.
“We did not detect IgM antibodies in any cord blood serum samples even in cases of critical maternal illness or preterm delivery, supporting that maternal-fetal SARS-CoV-2 transmission is rare.
“Of greater concern is the potential for newborns to be infected postnatally from contagious mothers or other household contacts. We found efficient transfer of IgG antibodies from women who were SARS-CoV-2 seropositive (transfer ratios ≥1.0 in 40 of 72 infants who were seropositive), and a positive correlation between maternal and cord antibody concentrations.
“Our findings are aligned with studies of vaccine-elicited antibodies to pertussis, rubella, hepatitis B, and influenza, where cord sera/maternal sera transfer ratios ranging from 0.8 to 1.7 have been observed.
“Higher maternal antibody concentrations and a higher transfer ratio were associated with increasing duration between onset of maternal infection and time of delivery. Multiple other factors, such as antigen-elicited IgG subclass, maternal infections, maternal immunodeficiency, placental pathology, and gestational age at birth, are known to affect transfer efficiency and will require further study for SARS-CoV-2.
“We did not observe a significant difference in transfer efficiency comparing infants born preterm (defined as <37 weeks’ gestation), but this finding was likely affected by small numbers (n = 9) of preterm infants, with the earliest born at 31 weeks’ gestation. Further studies will be needed to define transplacental antibody dynamics at earlier gestational ages.” they said.
The researchers concluded that the findings demonstrate the potential for maternally derived antibodies to provide neonatal protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection and will help inform both neonatal management guidance and design of vaccine trials during pregnancy.
“Further studies are needed to determine if SARS-CoV-2 antibodies are protective against newborn infection; if so, at what concentration; and whether the transplacental kinetics of vaccine-elicited antibodies are similar to naturally acquired antibodies,” they noted.
Commenting on the study, the Head of Infectious Diseases Unit, Department of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Iorhen Akase said antibodies provide protective substance against an infectious organism.
“So, if a mother has been exposed to COVID-19, she produces an antibodies against it and some of the antibodies can be passed through milk or placenta to the baby.
“The antibodies are not just against COVID but it’s a natural mechanism and that is why breast milk is important for baby. Breastmilk help builds a child’s immunity against a lot of infections but if a child is not breastfed, the child will not get the antibodies against infections especially those initial illnesses,” he said.
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