Non-White Pregnant Women More Likely to Get Infected with Coronavirus

In a new study, scientists have found out that non-white pregnant women in Philadelphia are five times as likely as their white counterparts to have been exposed to the coronavirus. These findings were published in an online pre-print server, medRxiv.

According to the data collected from nearly 1,300 women between April and June, Black, Latino, and Hispanic pregnant women are more likely to get infected by the virus. The findings of the study were based on widespread testing of antibodies that reveal whether a person has been affected by the coronavirus or not.

The study is in line with previous studies that have found that people of color are disproportionately affected by this pandemic. Though in line with previous findings, this new study tells us that that the numbers are way above than previously estimated.

It has been seen that people of color are about three times as likely to contract the coronavirus as white people. But the data that previously came out was based on tests for active infections, which have struggled to accurately capture where and how the virus has spread.

To see the effects of the virus on the pregnant women, scientists searched for coronavirus antibodies in blood samples from 1,293 women who gave birth at Pennsylvania Hospital or the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. These two hospitals alone account for nearly half of Philadelphia’s births.

In PCR tests, scientists look for genetic material of the virus in the blood, but in antibody body tests like the scientists performed in this study look for immune molecules produced in response to the virus.

The antibody tests can also identify people who have already had the infection and gotten better. This enables the researchers to account for all of the people who have had the coronavirus infections and not just the active infections.

Among all these tests carried out in the study, scientists found out that 6 percent women have had the coronavirus infection. When the scientists sorted out these women with help of mathematical tools, they found out that there were striking differences between different ethnicities.

About 10 percent of the people of color in the study had been exposed to the virus, compared with 2 percent of the white women and 1 percent of the Asian women.

Source: WHO

Some experts have raised questions about how accurately antibody tests can find people who have had the COVID-19 infection. Some cases have been reported where coronavirus antibodies were detected in a person who has never been infected.

However, the scientists on the study confirmed that their laboratory test had a false positive rate of just 1 percent, so these numbers can be considered as pretty solid.

Experts suggest that this effect of the pandemic on Black, Hispanic and Latino people have been largely because of the social determinants of health that increase their risk of exposure to the virus.

People of color are more likely to work essential jobs that require presence at the place of employment. People of color are also more likely to live in multigenerational homes and in neighborhoods that rely on public transportation like buses or trains.

Source: WHO

Recent research has also suggested that decades of discrimination can also accumulate toxic and chronic stress that can also impact the health of people of color and produce negative health outcomes.

Researchers are also pointing out that more research is also needed on women who are pregnant to fully understand how coronavirus impacts the human body.  Other data have also found that pregnant women infected by the coronavirus may be at higher risk of worse outcomes.

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