Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an emerging disease. The consequences of SARS-CoV-2 exposure in infants remain unknown. Therefore, this study aims to investigate whether neonates born to mothers with COVID-19 have adverse brain development.
Methods: This multicenter observational study was conducted at two designated maternal and children’s hospitals in Hubei Province, mainland China from February 1, 2020 to May 15, 2020. Neonates born to mothers with COVID-19 were enrolled. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings, and volumes of grey and white matters, and physical growth parameters were observed at 44 weeks corrected gestational age.
Results: Of 72 neonates born to mothers with COVID-19, 8 (11%) were diagnosed with COVID-19, 8 (11%) were critically ill, and no deaths were reported. Among the eight neonates that underwent brain MRI at corrected gestational age of 44 weeks, five neonates were diagnosed with COVID-19. Among these five neonates, three presented abnormal MRI findings including abnormal signal in white matter and delayed myelination in newborn 2, delayed myelination and brain dysplasia in newborn 3, and abnormal signal in the bilateral periventricular in newborn 5. The other three neonates without COVID-19 presented no significantly changes of brain MRI findings and the volumes of grey matter and white matter compared to those of healthy newborns at the equivalent age (P > 0.05). Physical growth parameters for weight, length, and head circumference at gestational age of 44 weeks were all above the 3rd percentile for all neonates.
Conclusions: Some of the neonates born to mothers with COVID-19 had abnormal brain MRI findings but these neonates did not appear to have poor physical growth. These findings may provide the information on the follow-up schedule on the neonates exposed to SARS-CoV-2, but further study is required to evaluate the association between the abnormal MRI findings and the exposure to SARS-CoV-2.