Placental infection may be more likely in early pregnancy


(Reuters) – The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 rarely infects the placenta, but new research suggests that when this infection occurs it is more likely to occur early in pregnancy.

Analyzing 12 placentas of healthy women, at gestational ages of 5 to 36 weeks, the researchers found that the placenta cells that become infected with the coronavirus have the surface protein ACE2, which the virus uses as a gateway. entrance.

At the end of pregnancy, ACE2 proteins are positioned in the cells in a way that does not expose them to the virus circulating in the mother’s blood, possibly protecting the placenta from infection, said co-author study, Dr. Drucilla Roberts, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

This “protective” positioning pattern was seen less frequently in the early placentas of gestation, when ACE2 was normally present around the entire cell circumference, according to the study.

This suggests “increased vulnerability of the first placenta to infection,” Roberts said.

“As more pregnant women recover from first-trimester SARS-CoV-2 infection, it is important to be alert for possible placental infection” and the mother’s transmission to the fetus, the researchers said in a published report to the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

How often this happens and the effects on the fetus and newborn remain unknown, they added.

SOURCE: Journal of Infectious Diseases, online April 21, 2021.

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