Assessing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection for pregnancy and as possible cause of birth defects

Project Details


Since December 2019, SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19 spreads
over the globe. Mortality rate is highest among the elderly while
people at reproductive age usually experience mild or no symptoms.
At current, data on SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy are
limited. Whereas infection during late trimester pregnancy seems to
occur without adverse events, a recent study reported maternal and
neonatal complications if the infection occurs in the early third
trimester. Very little is known about maternal and neonatal outcomes
after SARS-Cov-2 infection in the first and second trimester of
pregnancy. Moreover, vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during
pregnancy is still a controversial issue. The aim of this project is to
investigate (i) whether vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurs
during embryogenesis, and (ii) if/how this causes damage to
developing embryos. To that end, we will investigate the susceptibility
of human oocytes and early embryos to SARS-CoV-2 infection and
the possible impact on embryonic development in vitro. In addition
we will study vertical transmission and consequences of maternal
SARS-CoV-2 infection on embryogenesis in a hamster model in vivo.
In the hamster model we will also estimate protection from vertical
transmission by vaccination or passive serum transfer.
Effective start/end date1/11/2031/10/21


  • Sars-Cov-2 infection
  • Vertical transmission
  • Pregnancy
  • Embryogenesis
  • Congenital malformations

Flemish discipline codes

  • Developmental biology
  • Embryology
  • Virology