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New study suggests mothers can pass COVID-19 onto babies in the womb; Austin doctor warns more data is needed

On Thursday, Italian researchers published the summary from a study looking into whether mothers can transmit coronavirus to their babies while pregnant.

AUSTIN, Texas — For months, doctors around the world have been looking into the transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy. 

On Thursday, Italian researchers released the summary of a study that suggests vertical transmission of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy is possible, according to the Associated Press.

The study included 31 pregnant women at three different hospitals in March and April, according to the summary. According to Dr. Kaylen Silverberg, the medical director for Texas Fertility Center, more data is needed to draw any definite conclusions.

"We need to wait on larger numbers of patients who have been studied, and we need to be cautious," Silverberg said. "We need to take common-sense precautions to do everything we can do to prevent pregnant women from getting infected."

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If the findings are consistent as more data is gathered, Silverberg said this is the first time coronavirus has been found to transmit vertically from mother to fetus. 

However, there is still no information on when the women contracted the virus during their pregnancy.

Previous studies in China have found newborns with COVID-19 before, but there was no trace of it found during birth. In the study summary published by Italian researchers, they found evidence of COVID-19 in umbilical cord blood, breast milk and placenta. One hopeful finding in the summary was that one baby who tested positive upon birth tested negative two days later, suggesting the baby started developing antibodies in the womb.

Silverberg said all hospitals are collecting data on the virus because there are so many things that are unknown still. While this summary suggests babies might contract it in the womb, Silverberg calls this finding a "minuscule red flag."

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"By no means should a study of 31 people, of which the results are reported from Italy ... be accepted as dogma and that this is now a major red flag," Silverberg said. "This is a minuscule red flag just to say, 'Hey, look, we should keep this on our radar and we need to investigate further.'"

Silverberg emphasized the need to publish this information before more data was gathered. He gave the hypothesis that if this transmission results in an alarming number of newborns contracting the virus months from now, investigators won't be able to point to these researchers and say, "they knew this was possible months ago and said nothing."

WATCH: New study suggests mothers can pass COVID-19 onto babies in the womb

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