This is why the human placenta is a… target of COVID-19

This is why the human placenta is a… target of COVID-19

In Switzerland, a joint research team from the IVI and the CHUV understands why pregnant women and their fetuses are particularly vulnerable

Section of human placenta infected with SARS-CoV-2 and analyzed 24 hours after infection: the green signal indicates the presence of the Spike viral protein and the blue signal the cell nuclei in the placental tissue
Section of human placenta infected with SARS-CoV-2 and analyzed 24 hours after infection: the green signal indicates the presence of the Spike viral protein and the blue signal the cell nuclei in the placental tissue

What happens in the human placenta after infection with COVID-2? The answer comes from one Swiss study.
The research teams of Dr Marco Alves (Institute of Virology and Immunology) and the professor David Baud (Vaud University Hospital Center) were able to to determine, on the one hand, that the cells of the placenta human they can be infected from SARS-CoV-2, and, secondly, that the virus can proliferate in them and even infect nearby placental cells.
I results of their research have just been published in the scientific journal “Cell Reports Medicine” (Fahmi et al, 2021).
“This is a major step forward in our understanding of COVID-19 during pregnancy”, explains Marco Alves, team leader and immunologist atIvi, based in the laboratories of Middle houses, in Canton Bern.

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The mechanism of fetus-mother transmission of Coronavirus through the human placenta (in English)
The mechanism of fetus-mother transmission of Coronavirus through the human placenta (in English)

A specificity linked to the single stage of prenatal development

“Thousands of infectious virus particles can be generated rapidly in the placenta. Furthermore, we observed that SARS-CoV-2 receptor expression in the placenta is highly variable and specific to each pregnancy, which may explain why the virus sometimes passes to the fetus.".
It is important to remember that in the pregnant women il risk of being infected from SARS-CoV-2 increases by 70 percent compared to the general population of same age.
"For infected pregnant women the risk of a serious evolution, or of being hospitalized in intensive care, is 5-10 percent", explains David Baud, head of the Department of Obstetrics of the CHV extension, whose seat is at Lausannein the canton of Vaud.
Il risk of premature birth increases 2 to 3 voltse and we also know that of fetal death (intrauterine) increases by the same amount when a pregnant woman is infected. Pregnant women and their fetuses are therefore to be considered particularly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2.

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A three-month-old human fetus connected to the placenta
A three-month-old human fetus connected to the placenta

It is necessary to vaccinate those who are pregnant against the Coronavirus

The study by the research teams from Bern and Vaud strengthens the recommendation to vaccinate pregnant women.
To date, several hundred thousand of pregnant women have already been vaccinated with a messenger RNA vaccine, with no increased risk to mother and child.
This because messenger RNA does not pass to the fetus, while i maternally developed antibodies they cross the placental barrier and thus protect the child.
“The fact that the virus can infect and proliferate in the placenta demonstrates the need to be vaccinated”, explain the two researchers.
It should be remembered that this vaccination is now recommended to all pregnant women in Switzerland.

The article “SARS-CoV-2 can infect and propagate in human placenta explants” in English

A human placenta nestled in a surgical tray
A human placenta nestled in a surgical tray