Probable Vertical Transmission of Alpha Variant of Concern (B.1.1.7) with Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in the Syncytiotrophoblast, a Case Report

Hannah A. Bullock et al. January 6, 2023

Frontiers in Medicine

Bullock H.A., Fuchs E., Martines R.B., Lush M., Bollweg B., Rutan A., Nelson A., Brisso M., Owusu-Ansah A., Sitzman C., Ketter L., Timmons T., Lopez P., Mitchell E., McCutchen E., Figliomeni J., Iwen P., Uyeki T.M., Reagan-Steiner S. & Donahue M.


Introduction: Definitive vertical transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection has been rarely reported. We present a case of a third trimester pregnancy with fetal distress necessitating cesarean section that demonstrated maternal, placental, and infant infection with the SARS-CoV-2 Alpha variant/B.1.1.7.

Methods: CDC’s Influenza SARS-CoV-2 Multiplex RT-PCR Assay was used to test for SARS-CoV-2 in a maternal NP swab, maternal plasma, infant NP swab, and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) placental tissue specimens. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) was performed on maternal plasma, infant, and placental specimens to determine the SARS-CoV-2 genotype. Histopathological evaluation, SARS-CoV-2 immunohistochemistry testing (IHC), and electron microscopy (EM) analysis were performed on placenta, umbilical cord, and membrane FFPE blocks.

Results: All specimens tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR. WGS further revealed identical SARS-CoV-2 sequences from clade 20I/501Y.V1 (lineage Alpha/B.1.1.7) in maternal plasma, infant, and placental specimens. Histopathologic evaluation of the placenta showed histiocytic and neutrophilic intervillositis with fibrin deposition and trophoblast necrosis with positive SARS-CoV-2 immunostaining in the syncytiotrophoblast and electron microscopy evidence of coronavirus.

Discussion: These findings suggest vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2, supported by clinical course timing, identical SARS-CoV-2 genotypes from maternal, placental, and infant samples, and IHC and EM evidence of placental infection. However, determination of the timing or distinction between prepartum and peripartum SARS-CoV-2 transmission remains unclear.

To view the full article, please click here.