Coronavirus Plague Infection During Pregnancy Linked to Brain Development Problems in Babies

Babies whose mothers were infected with the coronavirus during pregnancy may face a higher risk of brain development disorders such as autism and bipolar disorder, a new study that examined more than 7,500 births suggests.

The finding, published Thursday in the journal JAMA Network Open, adds to the urgency to get coronavirus transmission under control even though newer variants are less likely to cause severe cases of COVID-19.

Other viruses, such as influenza and measles, are thought to make babies more vulnerable to conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and depression if they are exposed in utero. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School wondered whether the same might be true about SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“There are more than a decade of studies that suggest viral infection during pregnancy might be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, so there was reason to be concerned likewise with this virus,” said Dr. Roy Perlis, director of the Center for Quantitative Health at Massachusetts General Hospital and the study’s senior author.

The researchers examined data from electronic health records of deliveries that took place in eight medical centers in Massachusetts in the early months of the pandemic, between March and September 2020. The records tracked the babies’ development for a year after birth, looking for specific codes that would indicate a diagnosis of a developmental disorder related to motor function, speech or language, among other things.

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Source: Bangor Daily News