An Experimental Model for Peri-conceptual COVID-19 Pregnancy Loss and Proposed Interventions to Optimize Outcomes

Int J Mol Cell Med. 2020 Summer;9(3):180-187. doi: 10.22088/IJMCM.BUMS.9.3.180. Epub 2020 Nov 10.


Reports appear to give reassurance that vertical transmission near term is unlikely, but risks of incidental SARS-CoV-2 infection during fertility treatments, at embryo implantation, or in the first trimester remain unknown. If early pregnancy sequela in the current COVID-19 pandemic are modeled from the 2004 Coronavirus outbreak data, then SARS-CoV-2 infection proximate to blastocyst nidation is likely to cause implantation failure or spontaneous abortion. Our model explains why this outcome is less attributable to virus-associated maternal pulmonary distress and instead derives from systemic inflammation and interference with trophectoderm-endometrium molecular signaling required for implantation. COVID-19 is often accompanied by high levels of IL-6, IL-8, TNF-alpha and other cytokines, a process implicated in pulmonary collapse and systemic organ failure. Yet when regarded in an early reproductive context, this "cytokine storm" of COVID-19 triggers a pro-coagulative state hostile to normal in utero blastocyst/fetal development. Evidence from obstetrics is accumulating to show that mothers with SARS-CoV-2 deliver placentas with abnormal interstitial villi fibrin deposits, diffuse infarcts, and hemangiomatous changes. This model classifies such lesions as permissive at term but catastrophic near embryo implantation or early first trimester pregnancy. Clinical experience with recurrent pregnancy loss offers workable interventions to address this challenge, but success will depend on prompt and accurate SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis. Although no professional guidelines currently exist for SARS-CoV-2 in early pregnancy, this model would warrant a high-risk designation for such cases; these patients should receive priority access to screening and treatment resources.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; hypercoagulation; implantation; inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review