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Newborn Triplets Tested Positive For Coronavirus, But Their Parents Tested Negative

by Morgan Brinlee

Doctors and health officials are closely monitoring triplets who were born prematurely earlier this month in the central Mexican state of San Louis Potosí after the triplets tested positive for coronavirus immediately after birth. While there have been reports of newborns testing positive for COVID-19 before, health officials have deemed the triplets an "unprecedented" case as neither of their parents have tested positive for the virus.

The triplets were tested four hours after they were born prematurely on June 17 in accordance with health protocols established in San Louis Potosí, Mexican health officials told CNN. But while all three triplets tested positive for the novel coronavirus, their parents tested negative, leading health officials to launch an investigation into how the virus could have been transmitted to the newborns.

"What we need to look at is a situation where perhaps [the virus] is being transmitted through the placenta," CNN reported San Louis Potosí Health Secretary Monica Rangel told reporters last week. "That's not something that we can be sure of. Those are theories that we have to look at."

Rangel went on to note that because COVID-19 is still a relatively new virus, there is much that scientists and doctors didn't know, especially when it comes to the transmission of the virus in utero. "Now that we have the negative result of the PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests done on both parents, the case is even more relevant, not only for the investigation our doctors in the state are doing but for the worldwide research on the behavior of the virus itself," Rangel said, according to CNN.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported a few cases of newborns experiencing severe illness as a result of COVID-19, most are reported to have mild to no symptoms and a full recovery. In some cases, newborns have been infected with COVID-19 during childbirth or through close contact with an ill parent or caregiver immediately after delivery, the Mayo Clinic has noted. However, in the triplets' case, Mexican heath authorities told the BBC that infection during childbirth would have been "impossible."

It's unclear, however, if the triplets could have been exposed to the virus while in the womb. In May, a small study of 16 pregnant women confirmed to have COVID-19 found that although every woman's placenta showed evidence of injury, all but one delivered healthy babies. Later that same month, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine reported the first case of coronavirus infection via placenta. In June, a study from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham concluded the risk of mom-to-baby transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy was ultimately low.

Despite testing positive for COVID-19, Rangel has said the triplets are in stable condition and being monitored. "They are evolving favorably," CNN reported Rangel said. "One of them continues using an antibiotic, but they are doing well. We hope this continues so they can be reunited with their parents soon." For now, the triplets' parents are having to visit with their newborns via video calls, the cable news outlet reported.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.