Unborn babies could be at risk of catching COVID-19 in the womb

Unborn babies could be at risk of catching COVID-19 in the womb at just two weeks old if their mother becomes infected, study claims Genes in two-week old embryos are designed to create proteins on cell surfaces  These proteins include ACE2 receptor which coronavirus used to infect people  Thought the virus could use this pathway to infect unborn babies in the womb  The study is purely hypothetical and there is no proof babies are at risk  

By Joe Pinkstone For Mailonline

Published: 00:01 BST, 5 August 2020 | Updated: 00:01 BST, 5 August 2020

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Unborn babies as young as two weeks old possess genes which could put them at risk of contracting Covid-19 from their mother.

Early data shows these genes likely make proteins which the virus can use to infect human cells, including ACE2 which has been dubbed the 'gateway to the body'. 

Researchers from the University of Cambridge created a new way to look at genes in the early human embryo to determine their function. 

It involved scrutinising chunks of genetic material called RNA and has not been validated at the protein level, in cells or in animal models. 

The researchers say this discovery could be used to further investigate the risk to unborn babies but critics have slammed the study. 

Unborn babies as young as two weeks old possess genes which could put them at risk of contracting Covid-19 from their mother. Early data shows these genes likely make proteins which the virus can use to infect human cells, including ACE2 (stock)

Unborn babies as young as two weeks old possess genes which could put them at risk of contracting Covid-19 from their mother. Early data shows these genes likely make proteins which the virus can use to infect human cells, including ACE2 (stock)

Professor Christoph Lees, co-chief Investigator on the study at Imperial College London, stresses it is important to note these findings are strictly hypothetical. 

At this early stage, it is impossible to know if the presence of the genes manifests itself into increased risk from coronavirus. 

When a foetus is two weeks old the embryo attaches to the mother's womb and begins rapidly changing in shape and structure.  

'It is important to say that this work is at a very hypothetical stage – in other words there are more question marks than there are answers,' says Professor Lees. 

The research reignites an enormously emotional debate as to the risk Covid-19 positive pregnant mothers pose to their unborn child. 

Professor Lees says his research  does not prove the coronavirus can pass from mother to baby, but suggests a route in which it may be able to.  

When a foetus is two weeks old the embryo attaches to the mother's womb and begins rapidly changing in shape and structure.

When a foetus is two weeks old the embryo attaches to the mother's womb and begins rapidly changing in shape and structure.

Coronavirus can 'injure' the placenta 

The coronavirus may injure the placentas of pregnant women and cut off blood supply to their unborn babies, a small study has found, a May study found.

Scientists discovered visible damage to the placentas of all 15 mothers who were involved in the research.

Lesions and blood clots were discovered in the vital organ, responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the foetus.

Issues with placental blood flow can lead to low birth weight, organ damage in the baby or even foetal death.

Although none of the children in the study had any health troubles, the researchers who conducted the study said the findings 'worried them'.

The results highlight the need to monitor expectant mothers infected

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