Abstract

Context: Increasing numbers of neonates with systemic acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection are occurring, and in a small number there are reports of intrauterine infection.

Objective: To characterize the placental pathology findings in a preselected cohort of neonates infected by transplacental transmission arising from maternal infection with SARS-CoV-2, and to identify pathology risk factors for placental and fetal infection.

Design: Case-based retrospective analysis by a multinational group of 19 perinatal specialists of the placental pathology findings from 2 cohorts of infants delivered to mothers testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 - liveborn neonates infected via transplacental transmission who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after delivery and had SARS-CoV-2 identified in cells of the placental fetal compartment by molecular pathology; and stillborn infants with syncytiotrophoblast positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Results: In placentas from all 6 liveborn neonates acquiring SARS-CoV-2 via transplacental transmission the syncytiotrophoblast was positive for coronavirus using immunohistochemistry, RNA in situ hybridization, or both. All 6 placentas had chronic histiocytic intervillositis and necrosis of the syncytiotrophoblast. The 5 stillborn/terminated infants had placental pathology findings that were similar including SARS-CoV-2 infection of the syncytiotrophoblast, chronic histiocytic intervillositis and syncytiotrophoblast necrosis.

Conclusions: Chronic histiocytic intervillositis together with syncytiotrophoblast necrosis accompany SARS-CoV-2 infection of syncytiotrophoblast in liveborn and stillborn infants. Their coexistence in all placentas from liveborn infants acquiring their infection prior to delivery indicates that that these findings constitute a pathology risk factor for transplacental fetal infection. Potential mechanisms of infection of the placenta and fetus with SARS-CoV-2, and potential future studies, are discussed.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.