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2 Infants Suffer Brain Damage After COVID Infection


A United States study has discovered that two infants have suffered from brain damage after contracting COVID while in the womb. Researchers at the University of Miami have reported they may have found the first two confirmed cases where the SARS-CoV-2 virus crossed a mother’s placenta and caused their infants to have brain damage.

Irreparable Harm from COVID

Previously, doctors had suspected the possibility could happen. It wasn’t until this discovery that there was any evidence of a mother’s COVID-19 infection causing irreparable harm to an infant.

The young mothers tested positive for COVID during the second trimester of their pregnancy. This was also at the height of the pandemic’s Delta wave in 2020 and before vaccines were available.

In a briefing, Dr. Michael Paidas, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami, “This is the first time that we’ve been able to demonstrate the virus in a fetal organ with [the] transplacental passage.”

This is why researchers feel this discovery “is so important.”

Day 1 of Life

COVIDOn their first day of life, the infants began having seizures. However, unlike being birthed with the Zika virus, the babies were not born with microcephaly.

Microcephaly is a condition that causes an infant’s head to be much smaller than expected. As a baby develops in the womb their heads grow because the brain does. Microcephaly causes the infant’s brain to stop growing at normal rates, stated the research team.

Both of the babies had severe developmental delays. Unfortunately, one infant passed away at the age of 13 months. The other baby was in hospice care, stated the research team.

High Levels of COVID Antibodies

Dr. Merline Benny, a neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami, stated that neither child had tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, they both did have high levels of COVID-19 antibodies in their bloodstream.

Benny suggested the virus had passed from the mother to the children through the placenta during the news briefing.

The teams’ research showed they discovered COVID in both of the mother’s placentas. During the autopsy, they also found the virus in the brain of the infant who passed away.

Developmental Delays

These cases are considered rare. However, Dr. Shahnaz Duara, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of Miami, urges women who contract the virus during pregnancy to tell the child’s pediatrician. Stating the doctors will be able to monitor the children for developmental delays.

“We know that things can be fairly subtle up to seven or eight years of age until kids go to school,” added Dr. Duara.


Furthermore, women who are considering pregnancy or are pregnant are being urged to vaccinate against COVID-19. Currently, it is unclear if the brain damage is unique to the Delta variant or if it can occur from the Omicron one as well.

By Sheena Robertson

Yahoo!: COVID caused brain damage in 2 infants infected during pregnancy -US study
CDC: Microcephaly

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of mliu92‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Kai Schreiber‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


Cathrine Osborne, DM

Infectious Disease Physician

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