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COVID-19 and Pregnancy

COVID-19 in Pregnant Women: Effects on Placenta and Fetus

Researchers at the University of Malaga lead a study to analyze maternal inflammatory reaction caused by SARS-CoV-2 at the placental level

by University of Malaga
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Addressing the risks that COVID-19 infection may cause to a pregnant woman, particularly to placenta and fetus, is the aim of a new study of the research and development and innovation group "Maternal-fetal medicine, epigenetics, women's diseases and reproductive health" at the Biomedical Research Institute of Malaga (IBIMA), which received EUR 10,000 funding from the American pharmaceutical company FERRING.

A pioneering project to study the consequences on placenta derived from maternal inflammatory reaction caused after SARS-CoV-2 infection. "Since placenta is the structure that connects maternal and fetal compartments, any structural modification may have a negative impact on both the course of pregnancy and fetal development," explains Ernesto González Mesa, professor of gynecology at the University of Malaga and one of the main researchers of this study, along with Dr. Jesús Jiménez López, head of the obstetrics and gynecology service of the Regional University Hospital of Malaga.

"We already know that modifications in placental microcirculation may lead to miscarriage, fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, and preterm birth or neonatal hypoxic-ischemic injuries. In this new study we will investigate how COVID-19 infection induces such modifications, the pathogenic mechanisms, and the anatomoclinical correlation," adds González Mesa.

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To this end, researchers will analyze placentas from women who give birth anywhere in Andalusia and test positive or tested positive during pregnancy. Thus, the analysis will be performed at laboratories of IBIMA, and the anatomopathological studies at the Regional Hospital under the direction of Dr. Rafael Carvia, head of the pathological anatomy service at this hospital.

Placental tissue bank of COVID-19 cases

Apart from studying the placental inflammatory reaction, this study will enable the collection of placental tissue from women who have overcome coronavirus, becoming the first placental tissue and cord blood bank of COVID-19 cases and gestation in a public Biobank.

"This bank will be used to analyze the greatest number of placentas and cord blood samples collected so far worldwide," says the professor of the faculty of medicine at the UMA. Likewise, as these cases are included in the Spanish register, all related clinical and epidemiological data will be accessible, facilitating the correlation between results from the analysis performed and the medical, obstetrical, and neonatological variables gathered.

Medical protocol in expectant women

"Based on findings at the placental level, we will be able to determine the medical protocol in expectant women infected with SARS-CoV-2 in order to terminate high-risk situations or fetal compromise requiring specific treatment or fetus removal," remarks González Mesa.

The study is supported by the Andalusian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (S.A.G.O.) and, apart from the researchers of the IBIMA group, it involves collaborators from more than 24 hospitals of Andalusia. It will last for three years, although first results will be obtained in the second quarter of 2021.

- This press release was originally published on the University of Malaga website