Babies born to mothers exposed to COVID-19 infection may have intensified levels of immune cells known to be involved in rapid response to the viral infection, as per a new study.
Researchers at King's College London observed the immune system of 30 babies born to mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 at different stages of pregnancy.
The study, published in the journal Nature Immunology, found that babies born to recently infected mothers or those having ongoing infection had enhanced levels of circulating mediators and high percentages of cells known to be involved in quick response to infection.
The researchers said that the ability of immune cells to make mediators was build up even in babies born to women who had COVID-19 earlier during pregnancy. This stated that infection in the mother has changed the baby's immune system, they said.
Mothers Pass Antibodies To Babies
The study also found that the expecting mothers pass antibodies against COVID-19 infection to their babies through the placenta - called the transfer of passive immunity. This was evident if the infection was in the early stages of pregnancy.
"This data highlights that the neonatal immune system can be affected by the maternal state even if the direct infection of the infant is not there," said Deena Gibbons from King's College London, India Today reported.
"This opens up many methods of research and suggests that other maternal factors can be capable of changing the development of the foetal immune system," said Gibbons, the study's corresponding author.
Sarah Gee, the first author of the paper, noted that it would be interesting to know whether these immune changes allow the infant to make better responses to virus infections after birth.
The study authors would test more neonates to see whether others may have specific responses to SARS-CoV-2, suggesting the transfer of the infection from the mother to the baby - which appears to be rare.
They are also looking at how maternal infection may be changing the infant's immune system and how long these changes might remain.