Antibodies that guard against COVID-19 can be transferred from mothers to babies while in the womb, according to a new study from Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
There is growing evidence that suggests pregnant women who generate protective antibodies after contracting the coronavirus often convey some of that natural immunity to their fetuses. The findings also lend support to the idea that vaccinating mothers to be may also have benefits for their newborns.
Dr. Yawei Yang, an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and the study senior authors said “since we can now say that the antibodies pregnant women make against COVID-19 have been shown to be passed down to their babies, we suspect that there’s a good chance they could pass down the antibodies the body makes after being vaccinated as well.”
Dr. Yang and her team analysed blood samples from eighty-eight women who gave birth at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Centre between March and May 2020, a time when New York City was the global epicentre of the pandemic. All of the women had COVID-19 antibodies in their blood, indicating that they had contracted the virus at some point even though fifty-eight percent of those women had no symptoms.
Furthermore, while antibodies were detected in both symptomatic and asymptomatic woman, the researchers observed that the concentration of antibodies was significantly higher in symptomatic women. They also found that the general pattern of antibody responses was similar to the response seen in other patients, confirming that pregnant women have the same kind of immune response to the virus as the large patient population- something that hadn’t previously been known for sure, since a woman’s immune system changes throughout pregnancy.
In addition, the vast majority of babies born to these women, 78 percent had detectable antibodies in their umbilical cord blood. There was no evidence that any of the infants had been directly infected with the virus and all were COVID negative at the time of birth, further indicating that the antibodies have crossed the placenta. The organ that provided oxygen and nutrients to a growing baby during pregnancy into the fatal bloodstream. Newborn with symptomatic mother also had higher antibodies levels than those whose mothers had no COVID symptoms.
The data imply that pregnant women could pass along vaccine generated antibodies in the same way, potentially shielding both mother and child from future infection. However, it is not yet known exactly how protective these antibodies might be or might last.
Pregnant women who decide to get vaccinated are advised to continue to follow current safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease.
By: Peace Chigozie