According to UT Southwestern Medical Center research, unvaccinated pregnant women are increasingly being hospitalised with COVID-19 during a nationwide outbreak of the Delta variant. The study, which will cover over 1,500 cases in the Dallas area until May 2020, provides a snapshot of what doctors believe is going on in communities across the country. According to the findings, the proportion of pregnant COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalisation increased to 10 to 15% in late August and early September, more than doubling the percentage seen the previous year prior to the emergence of the Delta variant.”This is a concerning trend, and we’re seeing these cases primarily in unvaccinated women,” said Emily Adhikari, M.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the study’s lead author.
According to Dr. Adhikari, the findings provide the first objective evidence that the number and severity of illnesses in pregnant women increased with a spike in the Delta variant. The study included 1,515 pregnant women with COVID-19 who were treated at Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas County’s public hospital, between May 2020 and September 4, 2021.In total, 82 patients had severe or critical illness, with 10 requiring ventilators and two dying. Until after the new year, the proportion of severe or critical cases was around 5%, and then it was almost nonexistent in February and most of March.
The rise of the Delta variant, on the other hand, coincided with a new wave of hospitalizations that peaked in August and early September, including more than a third of COVID-19 cases the week of Aug. 29. By this point, genetic sequencing at UT Southwestern revealed that nearly all of the local variants sequenced were from the Delta B.1.617.2 strain.Except for one, all 82 patients hospitalised since May 2020 were unvaccinated.
Dr. Adhikari acknowledged that some women are concerned about the vaccine’s safety during pregnancy, but she claims that research has disproved those fears. Earlier this year, she co-authored a JAMA article that expanded on the topic of vaccines and pregnancy.According to Dr. Adhikari, pregnant women are more likely to develop complications from any type of severe respiratory infection, so these findings highlight the importance of pregnant and lactating women in all communities getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“If they are exposed and infected, they are at a higher risk of severe illness from the most recent Delta variant,” said Dr. Adhikari, Parkland’s Medical Director of Perinatal Infectious Diseases. “Women who are pregnant should get immunised as soon as possible.
“The genomic sequencing that revealed nearly all of the local SARS-CoV-2 variants were Delta was performed in the McDermott Center Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Core, with analysis performed by the McDermott Bioinformatics Lab, both under the supervision of Helen H. Hobbs, M.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Genetics who directs the McDermott Bioinformatics Lab. Dr. Jeffrey SoRelle, Assistant Professor of Pathology and study co-author, is collaborating with Dr. Hobbs by providing all positive COVID-19 samples tested at UT Southwestern and interpreting sequencing results with the help of a rapid, focused PCR-based test.
The collaboration with the McDermott Center Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Core at UT Southwestern allows for whole genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a cutting-edge facility that performs NGS in conjunction with bioinformatic analysis.
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