COVID-19, caused by Coronavirus rarely infects the placenta, but recent studies show that it is more likely to infect during early in pregnancy.
Researchers discovered that the cells in the placenta that get infected with the coronavirus have the surface protein ACE2, which the virus uses as a gateway for entry. This was arrived at after analysing 12 placentas from healthy women with gestational periods ranging from 5 weeks to 36 weeks.
According to the co-author Drucilla Roberts of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, that in late pregnancy, the ACE2 proteins are located on cells in such a way that they are not exposed to the virus circulating in the mother's blood, potentially shielding the placenta from infection.
The study discovered that this protective positioning pattern was less common in early gestation placentas, where ACE2 was normally present across the cell circumference. Drucilla further added that there is an increased vulnerability of the early placenta to infection.
"As more pregnant women recover from SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first trimester and it is necessary to remain alert to possible placental infection during early pregnancy," the researchers said in a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Mumbai in India is one of the places where there are more coronavirus cases and here many pregnant women lost their lives due to COVID-19. The BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central said that the mortality rate amongst pregnant women increased from 0.2% to 0.8%. It was 0.2% in the last year. The doctors said that one of the main reasons for their deaths is the delay in coming to the hospital.