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      Placental Pathology Findings during and after SARS-CoV-2 Infection: Features of Villitis and Malperfusion

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          Since the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), there has been a debate whether pregnant women are at a specific risk for COVID-19 and whether it might be vertically transmittable through the placenta. We present a series of five placentas of SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-positive women who had been diagnosed with mild symptoms of COVID-19 or had been asymptomatic before birth. We provide a detailed histopathologic description of morphological changes accompanied by an analysis of presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the placental tissue. All placentas were term deliveries (40th and 41st gestational weeks). One SARS-CoV-2-positive patient presented with cough and dyspnoea. This placenta showed prominent lymphohistiocytic villitis and intervillositis and signs of maternal and foetal malperfusion. Viral RNA was present in both placenta tissue and the umbilical cord and could be visualized by in situ hybridization in the decidua. SARS-CoV-2 tests were negative at the time of delivery of 3/5 women, and their placentas did not show increased inflammatory infiltrates. Signs of maternal and/or foetal malperfusion were present in 100% and 40% of cases, respectively. There was no transplacental transmission to the infants. In our cohort, we can document different time points regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection. In acute COVID-19, prominent lymphohistiocytic villitis may occur and might potentially be attributable to SARS-CoV-2 infection of the placenta. Furthermore, there are histopathological signs of maternal and foetal malperfusion, which might have a relationship to an altered coagulative or microangiopathic state induced by SARS-CoV-2, yet this cannot be proven considering a plethora of confounding factors.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Potential Maternal and Infant Outcomes from Coronavirus 2019-nCoV (SARS-CoV-2) Infecting Pregnant Women: Lessons from SARS, MERS, and Other Human Coronavirus Infections

          In early December 2019 a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause was identified in Wuhan, a city of 11 million persons in the People’s Republic of China. Further investigation revealed these cases to result from infection with a newly identified coronavirus, initially termed 2019-nCoV and subsequently SARS-CoV-2. The infection moved rapidly through China, spread to Thailand and Japan, extended into adjacent countries through infected persons travelling by air, eventually reaching multiple countries and continents. Similar to such other coronaviruses as those causing the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the new coronavirus was reported to spread via natural aerosols from human-to-human. In the early stages of this epidemic the case fatality rate is estimated to be approximately 2%, with the majority of deaths occurring in special populations. Unfortunately, there is limited experience with coronavirus infections during pregnancy, and it now appears certain that pregnant women have become infected during the present 2019-nCoV epidemic. In order to assess the potential of the Wuhan 2019-nCoV to cause maternal, fetal and neonatal morbidity and other poor obstetrical outcomes, this communication reviews the published data addressing the epidemiological and clinical effects of SARS, MERS, and other coronavirus infections on pregnant women and their infants. Recommendations are also made for the consideration of pregnant women in the design, clinical trials, and implementation of future 2019-nCoV vaccines.
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            The placentas of patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome: a pathophysiological evaluation

             W.F. Ng,  S.F. Wong,  A. Lam (2006)
            Summary Aims The pathology of the placentas delivered from pregnant women who had severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Hong Kong was studied. Methods The pathology of the placentas was retrospectively studied in detail and compared with control sets. The clinical data of the women and neonates were also reviewed. Results A total of seven placentas were studied. The placentas from two women convalescent from SARS in the first trimester were normal. In three placentas delivered in the acute stage of SARS, there were increases in intervillous or subchorionic fibrin which might be related to disturbances in maternal placental blood flow due to the hypoxic respiratory disease. Extensive fetal thrombotic vasculopathy (FTV) with sharply demarcated zones of avascular fibrotic villi was noted in the placentas of two patients convalescent from SARS in the third trimester. Both pregnancies had intrauterine growth retardation, oligohydramnios and newborns small for gestation. The aetiology of the FTV might be related to thrombotic tendency due to SARS or placental hypoxia. Conclusions This report highlights placental pathology that was probably the result of pathophysiological alteration of the maternal fetal unit during SARS. Further studies are required to delineate the relationship between severe maternal respiratory disease, placental pathology and pregnancy outcome.
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              Clinical characteristics of 19 neonates born to mothers with COVID-19

              The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical characteristics of neonates born to SARS-CoV-2 infected mothers and increase the current knowledge on the perinatal consequences of COVID-19. Nineteen neonates were admitted to Tongji Hospital from January 31 to February 29, 2020. Their mothers were clinically diagnosed or laboratory-confirmed with COVID-19. We prospectively collected and analyzed data of mothers and infants. There are 19 neonates included in the research. Among them, 10 mothers were confirmed COVID-19 by positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR in throat swab, and 9 mothers were clinically diagnosed with COVID-19. Delivery occurred in an isolation room and neonates were immediately separated from the mothers and isolated for at least 14 days. No fetal distress was found. Gestational age of the neonates was 38.6 ± 1.5 weeks, and average birth weight was 3293 ± 425 g. SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR in throat swab, urine, and feces of all neonates were negative. SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR in breast milk and amniotic fluid was negative too. None of the neonates developed clinical, radiologic, hematologic, or biochemical evidence of COVID-19. No vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and no perinatal complications in the third trimester were found in our study. The delivery should occur in isolation and neonates should be separated from the infected mothers and care givers.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                18 September 2020
                : 1-9
                aPathology, Institute of Medical Genetics and Pathology, University Hospital Basel, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
                bInstitute of Pathology, Cantonal Hospital Baselland, Liestal, Switzerland
                cDepartment of Pathology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
                dDepartment of Obstetrics and Antenatal Care, University Hospital Basel, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
                eDepartment of Neonatology, University Children’s Hospital Basel UKBB, Basel, Switzerland
                Author notes
                *Thomas Menter or Elisabeth Bruder, Institute of Medical Genetics and Pathology, Schönbeinstrasse 40, CH–4031 Basel (Switzerland), or
                511324 Pathobiology
                © 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel

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