Purpose: In view of conflicting reports on the ability of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) to infect placental tissue, this study aimed to further evaluate the impact of inflammation and placental damage from symptomatic third-trimester maternal COVID-19 infection. Materials and Methods: This case-control study included 32 placenta samples each from symptomatic COVID-19 pregnancy and normal non-COVID-19 pregnancy. The villous placental area’s inflammatory expression [angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2), transmembrane protease serine-2 (TMPRSS2), interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and SARS-CoV-2 spike protein] and apoptotic rate were examined using immunohistochemistry and Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP Nick-End La-beling (TUNEL) assay. Comparison and correlation analysis were used based on COVID-19 infection, placental SARS-CoV-2 spike protein evidence, and maternal severity status. Results: Higher expressions of TMPRSS2, IFN-γ, and trophoblast apoptotic rate were observed in the COVID-19 group (p<0.001), whereas ACE-2 and IL-6 expressions were not significantly different from the control group (p>0.05). Additionally, SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was detected in 8 (25%) placental samples of COVID-19 pregnancy. COVID-19 subgroup analysis revealed increased IFN-γ, trophoblast, and stromal apoptosis (p<0.01). Moreover, the results of the current study revealed no correlation between maternal COVID-19 severity and placental inflammation as well as the apoptotic process. Conclusion: The presence of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as well as altered inflammatory and apoptotic processes may indicate the presence of placental disturbance in third-trimester maternal COVID-19 infection. The lack of correlation between placental dis-ruption and maternal severity status suggests the need for more research to understand the infection process and any potential long-term impacts on all offsprings born to COVID-19-infected pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-209
Number of pages8
JournalYonsei Medical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • apoptosis
  • COVID-19
  • inflammation
  • placenta
  • pregnancy


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