Study Looks at COVID-19 Prevalence Among Pregnant Women in Philadelphia

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many researchers are trying to determine which vulnerable populations are at risk of contracting the virus. Pregnant women are among those most vulnerable because the virus could put both the mother and newborn at risk.

In a new study published in the journal Science Immunology, a team of researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Division of Neonatology and Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness, along with a team from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, were able to perform 1,293 serological tests on pregnant women at two centers in Philadelphia between April 4 and June 3, 2020, a period of time when case counts steadily rose in the region. Additionally, pregnancy is one of the few instances in which otherwise healthy people are consistently interacting with the medical system, giving the researchers a golden opportunity to assess COVID-19’s prevalence in the community.

In total, 80 of the 1,293 women assessed in this study tested positive for COVID-19-specific antibodies. Among all patients, the positivity rate was 6.2%, but the researchers observed that it was higher in both Black (9.7%) and Hispanic women (10.4%) and lower in white (2.0%) and Asian women (0.9%).

Additionally, 72 of those who tested positive also received nasopharyngeal polymerase chain reaction during pregnancy, and of those, 46 (64%) tested positive for the virus. However, while the serological tests were administered at the time of admission, the nasopharyngeal tests were collected either at admission or earlier in the pregnancy.


Karen Puopolo, MD, PhD Karen Puopolo, MD, PhD
While additional studies will be needed to address the impact on COVID-19 infections in pregnant women and what affect they may have on newborns, this study provides an important starting point in determining how to manage these risks and how to investigate the cause of racial disparities in community transmission rates.

“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,” said Karen Puopolo, MD, PhD, an attending neonatologist at CHOP and one of the co-authors of the study.

Click here to read the University of Pennsylvania’s full press release about the study.

Flannery et al. “SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence Among Parturient Women in Philadelphia.” Sci Immunol. Online 29 July 2020.

/CHOP Media Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.