Molecular evidence suggesting the persistence of residual SARS-CoV-2 and immune responses in the placentas of pregnant patients recovered from COVID-19.Cell Prolif. 2021 Jul 22 [Online ahead of print]CP
Recent studies have shown the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the tissues of clinically recovered patients and persistent immune symptoms in discharged patients for up to several months. Pregnant patients were shown to be a high-risk group for COVID-19. Based on these findings, we assessed SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid and protein retention in the placentas of pregnant women who had fully recovered from COVID-19 and cytokine fluctuations in maternal and foetal tissues.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Remnant SARS-CoV-2 in the term placenta was detected using nucleic acid amplification and immunohistochemical staining of the SARS-CoV-2 protein. The infiltration of CD14+ macrophages into the placental villi was detected by immunostaining. The cytokines in the placenta, maternal plasma, neonatal umbilical cord, cord blood and amniotic fluid specimens at delivery were profiled using the Luminex assay.
Residual SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid and protein were detected in the term placentas of recovered pregnant women. The infiltration of CD14+ macrophages into the placental villi of the recovered pregnant women was higher than that in the controls. Furthermore, the cytokine levels in the placenta, maternal plasma, neonatal umbilical cord, cord blood and amniotic fluid specimens fluctuated significantly.
Our study showed that SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid (in one patient) and protein (in five patients) were present in the placentas of clinically recovered pregnant patients for more than 3 months after diagnosis. The immune responses induced by the virus may lead to prolonged and persistent symptoms in the maternal plasma, placenta, umbilical cord, cord blood and amniotic fluid.