Severe COVID-19 infection rare in newborns - expert comment

UK-wide analysis of COVID-19 infections in newborns across the UK suggests that severe COVID-19 infection is rare in newborn babies.
Person holding baby's hand. Credit: Pexels/Lisa Fotios

The study was led by researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford and published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. It traced all babies less than 29 days old admitted to hospital in the UK with COVID-19 infection between the beginning of March and end of April using a national system called the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit.

The study found 66 babies required hospital treatment for COVID-19 infection in this period. This is the equivalent of 1 in 1785 births, or 0.06% of births. Nearly half (45 per cent) of the babies who developed severe infection were from Black, Asian or minority ethnic groups. Around one in four of the babies (24 per cent) were born prematurely (defined as being born before 37 weeks). These are both higher than would be expected from the UK birth population.

Reacting to these findings, Dr Melissa Medvedev, Clinical Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: "Using the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, Gale and colleagues tracked the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection within 28 days of birth among babies receiving care in UK hospitals at the height of the pandemic. The results indicate that neonatal SARS-CoV-2 infection is uncommon and generally mild, including among newborns of infected mothers.

"This study provides additional evidence supporting UK, US, and European recommendations to keep mother and baby together even when maternal COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed. Further research is needed to investigate the elevated incidence among preterm babies and those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups."

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