The global COVID-19 pandemic is a battle only biomedical and translational research can defeat. Located in the Bronx, the nation’s hardest-hit community with the highest case rate, the scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have been on the frontlines of discovery, working hand-in-hand with clinicians at Montefiore Health System to understand and respond to the most devastating impacts of this virus. As Montefiore medical teams treat patients, Einstein researchers are working with practiced determination to improve the clinical response.
What are the goals?
Researchers have prioritized three pillars of investigation — biology and pathogenesis, therapeutics development, and clinical disease and epidemiology — which hold promise for asking and answering the most critical questions COVID-19 poses.
Examples of current and future research problems experts are striving to solve include:
- What are the critical aspects of viral infection, replication, and transmission for COVID-19 in humans to understand how the virus spreads — and how we can halt it?
- What are the genetic risk factors and biomarkers that can predict a more severe disease course for certain patients?
- To understand COVID-19 — and other potential viruses — on a global scale, how can we create virologic and serologic surveillance systems to understand, map, and halt the spread of the disease in communities?
Answers to these questions have an immense impact when we need it most.
Pregnancy and COVID-19 study
Researchers at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in collaboration with four major New York City academic health centers, published the largest review to date of birth outcomes among women with SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus.
The research was published in early June and included the information on 241 births of women with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. According to the study, “When admitted to the hospital 61.4% of the 241 women included in this study were asymptomatic. Almost one-third of the asymptomatic women became symptomatic during their hospitalization. Nearly all newborns tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 immediately after birth (97.5%), and there were no maternal deaths”. The women in this study represented the diversity of New York City: 43.9% Hispanic or Latinx; 30.3% White, non-Hispanic; 10.9% Black, non-Hispanic; and 14.9% who identified as Other.
“The good news is that these findings show that most pregnant women who contract this disease have good birth outcomes.”
— Sharmila K. Makhija, M.D., M.B.A., chair and professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Women’s Health, Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Which women were impacted the hardest?
The study found some women were at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing more severe symptoms, such as women with higher body mass index (greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2).
Higher rates of preterm birth and cesarean birth were found among pregnant women who delivered with severe and critical COVID-19, with more than 50% of women in severe condition delivering via cesarean section, while in women with a critical condition, that jumps to 91%.
According to the study: “The singleton preterm birth rate among severe patients was 18.0% and 58.3% among critical COVID-19 patients; which is higher than the national average (10% in 2018) and reflects the fact that some women needed to be delivered based on how well the mother was able to breathe. *Preterm birth is defined as a baby born less than 37 weeks of gestation.”
“NYC data shows that the novel coronavirus is disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic communities. As this pandemic continues to rapidly evolve, it is crucial to understand the impact of this disease on pregnant women, as well as how this impact may vary across different ethnicities”
— Rasha Khoury, M.D., M.P.H., Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health, Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
As scientists at Montefiore and Einstein explore expedited paths to clinical studies and trial designs, they’ve taken swift action to share early data and collaborate on novel ideas.
They need our help to find treatment.