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Pregnant women are FOUR TIMES more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than the general population

Pregnant women are FOUR TIMES more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than the general population, the Philadelphia study suggests

  • Researchers looked at nearly 1,300 pregnant women who gave birth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between April and June
  • About 6.2% of the women had developed antibodies against the coronavirus
  • That’s four times more people than the 1.4% of the city’s general population who also generated an immune response to the virus
  • Black and Hispanic women were more likely to test positive for antibodies by 9.7% and 10.4%, respectively
  • That is five times the number of white and Asian women with antibodies of 2% and 0.9% respectively

Pregnant women are exposed to the coronavirus much more often than the general population, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that more than six percent of pregnant women in Philadelphia had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus’s official name.

That’s four times the number of people in the city of brotherly love who have also generated an immune response to the virus.

The team, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, says the findings raise questions about whether or not pregnant women have a different immune response to COVID-19.

A new study found that 6.2% of pregnant women in Philadelphia had developed antibodies to coronavirus, compared to 1.4% of the city's general population (file image)

A new study found that 6.2% of pregnant women in Philadelphia had developed antibodies to coronavirus, compared to 1.4% of the city’s general population (file image)

Black and Hispanic women were more likely to test positive for antibodies by 9.7% and 10.4%, respectively, which is five times the number of Caucasian and Asian women with antibodies. Picture: Coronavirus antibodies in pregnant women before the pandemic and during the pandemic

Black and Hispanic women were more likely to test positive for antibodies by 9.7% and 10.4%, respectively, which is five times the number of Caucasian and Asian women with antibodies. Picture: Coronavirus antibodies in pregnant women before the pandemic and during the pandemic

Black and Hispanic women were more likely to test positive for antibodies by 9.7% and 10.4%, respectively, which is five times the number of Caucasian and Asian women with antibodies. Picture: Coronavirus antibodies in pregnant women before the pandemic and during the pandemic

“Pregnant women are fairly representative of community exposure, and this data provides more evidence, in addition to what we already know with COVID-19, that health and socio-economic equality are inextricably linked,” said co-lead author Dr. Scott Hensley, an associate professor of microbiology at Perelman, said in a statement.

“Hopefully this will help develop policies that address these inequalities.”

For the study, published in the journal Scientific immunology, they looked at 1,293 women who gave birth at the Pennsylvania Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital between April 4 and June 3.

The team then tested the women for coronavirus antibodies that bind to the spike protein, which the virus uses to invade and infect human cells.

Researchers say the antibody test had an estimated sensitivity of 100 percent and a specificity of 98.9 percent.

This means that the test would not show any positive and very few false negatives.

Overall, 6.2 percent of women were exposed to the virus and developed antibodies to it.

That’s about four times the reported infection rate in Philadelphia, which is about 1.4 percent.

The researchers say this means that the immune response to COVID-19 in pregnant women may be different from that in the general population.

However, rates between racial and ethnic groups varied widely.

About 9.7 percent of black women and 10.4 percent of Hispanic women tested positive for antibodies.

For comparison, only two percent of white women and 0.9 percent of Asian women also developed an immune response to the coronavirus.

Researchers say the findings could help clinicians be wary of coronavirus symptoms in the minority pregnant women.

It’s not clear why black and Hispanic women are more likely to be exposed to the virus, but the team says it’s likely due to underlying socio-economic factors and inequalities.

“Identifying the inequality in virus exposure will ideally help discover what causes these differences,” said co-lead author Dr. Karen Marie Puopolo, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Phladelphia.

‘[This includes] factors rooted in systemic racism, and inform about public health measures aimed at preventing further infections. ‘

In the US, there are more than 4.3 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 149,000 deaths.

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