In December 2019, an outbreak of a new infectious disease occurred in China. The virus has been named "SARS-CoV-2" and the disease it causes has been called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since then, it has become a pandemic that has rapidly expanded worldwide, causing a respiratory infection that can progress to severe pneumonia. Person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is thought to be similar to the transmission of influenza and other respiratory pathogens: respiratory droplets are formed when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and these droplets are inhaled by close contacts, generally within six feet.
One important question is whether SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus, a process called vertical transmission1. A follow-up question, therefore, is whether the virus can be spread in the birth products, such as the placenta and umbilical cord blood (UCB).
Several studies addressing these questions have been reported recently. Over 100 pregnant women in their third trimester who had respiratory symptoms tested positive for COVID-192,3. Among the babies delivered to these women, there were no confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Importantly, in placentas and UCB that were tested for SARS-CoV-2, the results were also negative.
Findings from these studies suggest that there is currently no evidence for intrauterine infection caused by vertical transmission in women who develop COVID-19 pneumonia in late pregnancy4.
Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Association of Blood Banks, and Be The Match: The National Marrow Donor Program have all stated that individuals are not a risk of contracting COVID-19 through blood or blood products. This includes receiving a blood transfusion or regenerative medicine therapies involving stem cells. The FDA reports that there have been no reported or suspected cases of transmission-transmitted COVID-19 to date. These agencies recently met to discuss whether additional screening should be added; however, they determined that no testing of mothers or cord blood is needed. They recommend continuing standard practices for collecting and processing cord blood.
Based on currently available information, the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program continues to collect UCB from infants diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). We have also made changes in our manufacturing laboratory to comply with social distancing guidelines and ensure the safety of our staff. In addition, we will continue to perform cell deliveries at HLHS Consortium hospitals with careful consideration on a case-by-case, day-by-day basis.
Please contact us at HLHS@mayo.edu if you have any questions. Thank you for your continued support.