Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 placental infection and inflammation leading to fetal distress and neonatal multi-organ failure in an asymptomatic woman

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Abstract

Background: In general, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection during pregnancy is not considered to be an increased risk for severe maternal outcomes but has been associated with an increased risk for fetal distress. Maternal-fetal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was initially deemed uncertain; however, recently a few cases of vertical transmission have been reported. The intrauterine mechanisms, besides direct vertical transmission, leading to the perinatal adverse outcomes are not well understood. Methods: Multiple maternal, placental, and neonatal swabs were collected for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Serology of immunoglobulins against SARS-CoV-2 was tested in maternal, umbilical cord, and neonatal blood. Placental examination included immunohistochemical investigation against SARS-CoV-2 antigen expression, with SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid (RNA) in situ hybridization and transmission electron microscopy. Results: RT-qPCRs of the oropharynx, maternal blood, vagina, placenta, and urine were all positive over a period of 6 days, while breast milk, feces, and all neonatal samples tested negative. Placental findings showed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 particles with generalized inflammation characterized by histiocytic intervillositis with diffuse perivillous fibrin depositions with damage to the syncytiotrophoblasts. Conclusions: Placental infection by SARS-CoV-2 leads to fibrin depositions hampering fetal-maternal gas exchange with resulting fetal distress necessitating a premature emergency cesarean section. Postpartum, the neonate showed a fetal or pediatric inflammatory multisystem-like syndrome with coronary artery ectasia temporarily associated with SARS-CoV-2 for which admittance and care on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) were required, despite being negative for SARS-CoV-2. This highlights the need for awareness of adverse fetal and neonatal outcomes during the current coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, especially considering that the majority of pregnant women appear asymptomatic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-561
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

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