COVID-19 ‘may cause brain hemorrhages in unborn babies’

Does COVID-19 damage the brains of unborn children?  (Getty)

Does COVID-19 damage the brains of unborn children? (Getty)

Studies based on tissue from fetuses have found evidence that may be linked to cerebral hemorrhages in unborn children.

The researchers say the number of brain hemorrhages found to occur is ‘extremely unusual’.

The cause of these bleedings is unclear.

The possible explanations, the researchers say, could be an indirect or indirect result of the maternal immune response.

The study suggests that COVID-19 may affect the fetal brain in the earliest stages of pregnancy, emphasizing the need for further study of the potential impact on subsequent neurological development.

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The researchers examined 26 samples of human fetal tissue with bleeding observed from a total of 661 samples collected between July 2020 and April 2022.

All of the bleeding samples had COVID-19 virus.

Dr Katie Long, lead investigator of the study from King’s IoPPN, said: “Although occasional hemorrhages can occur in developing brains, it is extremely unusual to have so many cases in a 21-month period.

“It is now crucial that we follow up on children exposed to COVID-19 prenatally so that we can determine whether there are long-term neurodevelopmental effects.”

“While we haven’t been able to establish a clear causation yet, we think this certainly highlights the need for expectant mothers to take extra precautions at a time when cases are on the rise.”

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“Our findings suggest an association between the early development of human fetal brain tissue and vulnerability to COVID-19 infection,” said Marco Massimo, first author of the study, from King’s IoPPN.

Professor Lucilla Poston CBE, Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health at King’s College London, said: “We know that severe viral infection can affect the fetal brain, but this important study is the first to suggest that this may occur in pregnancies affected by COVID infection.

Whatever the cause, the direct effect of the virus or the indirect result of maternal infection, this study highlights the need for pregnant women to be vaccinated against COVID-19, avoiding complications for both mother and baby.”

Dr Long concludes:

Most of the hemorrhagic samples came from fetal tissue donated between the late first trimester and early second trimester of pregnancy.

This is a particularly important period of human fetal brain development when the tight junctions between the endothelial cells of blood vessels increase to form the blood brain barrier, the semipermeable barrier that protects the brain from foreign matter.

Further investigations found that the integrity of blood vessels in hemorrhagic samples was considerably lower than in uninfected samples.

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