Researchers in Philadelphia recently undertook a broad survey looking at pregnant women and risk of COVID-19 exposure, and uncovered a distressing disparity. According to their findings, Black and Hispanic expectant mothers were five times more likely to have been exposed to the novel coronavirus than white or Asian pregnant women.
The study, which was recently published in Science Immunology and conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, analyzed data 1,300 pregnant women to determine which of them had been more exposed to COVID-19 from April to June. After testing each of the pregnant women to see who possessed the COVID-19 antibody in their systems through a blood sample, 6.2% were found to have been exposed to the virus.
Of that 6.2%, the study found that Hispanic pregnant women accounted for 10.4% while Black expectant moms accounted for 9.7%. At the other end of the spectrum, researchers found that only 2% of white or Asian pregnant women were found to have been exposed to COVID-19. Overall, as Science Daily reported, the research found that Black and Hispanic pregnant women were "five times more likely to be exposed to coronavirus."
"Pregnant women are fairly representative of community exposure, and these data provide more evidence, on top of what we already know with COVID-19, that health and socio-economic equity are inextricably linked," Scott Hensley, lead author of the study and an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release. "Hopefully, this will help lead to policies that address these inequities."
This study's findings are in line with similar research published in The British Medical Journal in the United Kingdom, which found that a full 56% of pregnant women admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus from March 1 to April 14 were Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities.
Based on data from January to June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also found that Hispanic and Black pregnant women, who already face racial disparities during pregnancy, appear to be "disproportionately affected" by the coronavirus in the United States when compared to white and Asian expectant mothers.
It's important to note that this new research to come out of the University of Pennsylvania was focused on exposure to the coronavirus rather than positive COVID-19 cases. Ultimately, study co-author Dr. Karen Marie Puopolo, an associate pediatrics professor and neonatologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, explained in the news release that "identifying the disparity in virus exposure will ideally help lead to the discovery of what is causing these differences, including factors rooted in systemic racism, and inform public health measures aimed at preventing further infections."
Hensley, S. (2020) SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence among parturient women in Philadelphia, Science Immunology https://immunology.sciencemag.org/content/5/49/eabd5709
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