SARS-CoV-2 and Placental Pathology: Malperfusion Patterns Are Dependent on Timing of Infection During Pregnancy

Am J Surg Pathol. 2022 Jan 1;46(1):51-57. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000001772.


The extent to which severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection at different points in the pregnancy timeline may affect maternal and fetal outcomes remains unknown. We sought to characterize the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection proximate and remote from delivery on placental pathology. We performed a secondary analysis of placental pathology from a prospective cohort of universally tested SARS-CoV-2 positive women >20 weeks gestation at 1 institution. Subjects were categorized as having acute or nonacute SARS-CoV-2 based on infection <14 or ≥14 days from delivery admission, respectively, determined by nasopharyngeal swab, symptom history, and serologies, when available. A subset of SARS-CoV-2 negative women represented negative controls. Placental pathology was available for 90/97 (92.8%) of SARS-CoV-2 positive women, of which 26 were from women with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and 64 were from women with nonacute SARS-CoV-2. Fetal vascular malperfusion lesions were significantly more frequent among the acute SARS-CoV-2 group compared with the nonacute SARS-CoV-2 group (53.8% vs. 18.8%; P=0.002), while frequency of maternal vascular malperfusion lesions did not differ by timing of infection (30.8% vs. 29.7%; P>0.99). When including 188 SARS-CoV-2 negative placentas, significant differences in frequency of fetal vascular malperfusion lesions remained between acute, nonacute and control cases (53.8% vs. 18.8% vs. 13.2%, respectively; P<0.001). No differences were noted in obstetric or neonatal outcomes between acutely and nonacutely infected women. Our findings indicate timing of infection in relation to delivery may alter placental pathology, with potential clinical implications for risk of thromboembolic events and impact on fetal health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Ischemia / virology
  • Patient Acuity
  • Placenta / blood supply*
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Placenta / virology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / pathology*
  • Prospective Studies