Importance: Congenital viral infections leading to ocular abnormalities are frequent and devastating. As ophthalmological manifestations of COVID-19 in newborns are still unknown, it is important to clarify if SARS-CoV-2 could be associated with ocular abnormalities.
Objective: To determine whether exposure to SARS-CoV-2 is associated with outcomes in the eyes of newborns.
Design, setting, and participants: This case series enrolled newborns from April to November 2020 from 3 different maternity hospitals in São Paulo, Brazil. The diagnosis of COVID-19 in mothers and newborns was based on real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays with material obtained from oronasopharyngeal swab sample; positive IGM serology was also considered as a diagnostic test for mothers. Newborns were excluded if they had any evidence of another congenital infection. All infants underwent external ocular examination and binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy.
Exposures: Serology test for COVID-19 and detection of SARS-CoV-2 from oronasopharyngeal specimen using a real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay on both mothers and newborns.
Main outcomes and measures: Screening for ophthalmologic manifestation in newborns after maternal COVID-19 infection.
Results: A total of 165 newborns (age range at examination, 1 to 18 days) were evaluated. Of these, 123 (74.5%) were born at full term, and 42 (25.4%) were born preterm. Maternal gestational age at the time of COVID-19-positive test varied from first to 40th gestational weeks. Six newborns (3.6%) had positive polymerase chain reaction findings for SARS-CoV-2. One newborn tested positive within 18 days (horizontal transmission), and 5 newborns tested positive in the first day of life (possible vertical transmission). None had ocular abnormalities. Concerning exposed newborns with negative test results, 1 presented with venous engorgement and vascular tortuosity, 7 had intraretinal hemorrhages, and 2 were diagnosed as having retinopathy of prematurity.
Conclusions and relevance: In this uncontrolled case series of Brazilian newborns of mothers with COVID-19 infection, a low rate of COVID-19 infection was found among newborns, and none had ocular abnormalities. Additional controlled studies may be warranted to confirm these findings.