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Lyme disease study raises possibility of mother-to-baby transmission


May 15th, 2019

A scientist who co-authored a recent Public Health Agency of Canada study on the impact of Lyme disease during pregnancy says the illness can have fatal consequences for a developing fetus if the mother goes untreated.

“Miscarriage, newborn death, and newborns with respiratory problems or jaundice have been found to occur,” said American epidemiologist Alison Hinckley.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist says more research is needed to show a definitive link between Lyme disease and pregnancy complications, including whether the tick-borne illness can be passed from mother to baby in the womb.

Hinckley and four Public Health Agency of Canada scientists authored a recent report that reviewed 59 cases of pregnant mothers carrying Lyme disease and their pregnancy outcomes. The results were published in the November 2018 peer-reviewed science journal PLOS One, showing that 36 of the 59 fetuses had been harmed. Complications ranged from miscarriage and stillbirth to congenital abnormalities, respiratory distress and heart abnormalities.

“It is clear, however, that pregnant women who suspect that they might have contracted Lyme disease should see their health-care provider as quickly as possible to receive appropriate treatment and reduce the chance of poor fetal outcomes,” said Hinckley.

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