A prospective, longitudinal, case–control study to evaluate the neurodevelopment of children from birth to adolescence exposed to COVID-19 in utero

Rachel A. Hill, Atul Malhotra, Vathana Sackett, Katrina Williams, Michael Fahey, Kirsten R. Palmer, Rod W. Hunt, Hayley Darke, Izaak Lim, Vesna Newman-Morris, Jeanie L.Y. Cheong, Clare Whitehead, Joanne Said, Paulo Bignardi, Evelin Muraguchi, Luiz Carlos C. Fernandes, Carlos Oliveira, Suresh Sundram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has created unprecedented acute global health challenges. However, it also presents a set of unquantified and poorly understood risks in the medium to long term, specifically, risks to children whose mothers were infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) during pregnancy. Infections during pregnancy can increase the risk of atypical neurodevelopment in the offspring, but the long-term neurodevelopmental impact of in utero COVID-19 exposure is unknown. Prospective, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate children exposed in utero to SARS-CoV2 to define this risk. Methods: We have designed a prospective, case-controlled study to investigate the long-term impacts of SARS-CoV2 exposure on children exposed in utero. Women infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy will be recruited from Monash Health, the Royal Women’s Hospital and Western Health (Melbourne, Australia) and Londrina Municipal Maternity Hospital Lucilla Ballalai and PUCPR Medical Clinical (Londrina, Brazil). A control group in a 2:1 ratio (2 non-exposed: 1 exposed mother infant dyad) comprising women who gave birth in the same month of delivery, are of similar age but did not contract SARS-CoV-2 during their pregnancy will also be recruited. We aim to recruit 170 exposed and 340 non-exposed mother-infant dyads. Clinical and socio-demographic data will be collected directly from the mother and medical records. Biospecimens and clinical and epidemiological data will be collected from the mothers and offspring at multiple time points from birth through to 15 years of age using standardised sample collection, and neurological and behavioural measures. Discussion: The mapped neurodevelopmental trajectories and comparisons between SARS-CoV-2 exposed and control children will indicate the potential for an increase in atypical neurodevelopment. This has significant implications for strategic planning in the mental health and paediatrics sectors and long-term monitoring of children globally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective
  • SARS-CoV2

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