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Yan K, Xiao FF, Jiang YW, Xiao TT, Zhang DJ, Yuan WH, Shao JB, Cheng GQ, Zeng LK. Effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on neuroimaging and neurobehavior in neonates. World J Pediatr. 2021 Mar 19. doi: 10.1007/s12519-021-00423-2. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33740237.

Background: We collected neonatal neurological, clinical, and imaging data to study the neurological manifestations and imaging characteristics of neonates with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Methods: This case-control study included newborns diagnosed with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China from January 2020 to July 2020. All included newborns had complete neurological evaluations and head magnetic resonance imaging. We normalized the extracted T2-weighted imaging data to a standard neonate template space, and segmented them into gray matter, white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid. The comparison of gray matter volume was conducted between the two groups.

Results: A total of five neonates with COVID-19 were included in this study. The median reflex scores were 2 points lower in the infected group than in the control group (P = 0.0094), and the median orientation and behavior scores were 2.5 points lower in the infected group than in the control group (P = 0.0008). There were also significant differences between the two groups in the total scale score (P = 0.0426). The caudate nucleus, parahippocampal gyrus, and thalamus had the strongest correlations with the Hammersmith neonatal neurologic examination (HNNE) score, and the absolute correlation coefficients between the gray matter volumes and each part of the HNNE score were all almost greater than 0.5.

Conclusions: We first compared the neurological performance of neonates with and without COVID-19 by quantitative neuroimaging and neurological examination methods. Considering the limited numbers of patients, more studies focusing on the structural or functional aspects of the virus in the central nervous system in different age groups will be carried out in the future.

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