Fetuses respond differently to COVID-19 based on sex, study finds

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A study published Oct. 19 in Science Translational Medicine found male placentas showed increased immune activation compared with female placentas in pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19.

The study included 68 pregnant women, 38 of whom became infected with COVID-19 during their third trimester prior to the development of the vaccine. The remaining 30 subjects were healthy pregnant women who tested negative for COVID-19. Half the fetuses were male and half were female in both groups.

Key takeaways: 

  • The placentas of male fetuses carried by women with COVID-19 had much higher expression of interferon-stimulated genes.

  • Mothers with COVID-19 carrying male fetuses make lower levels of antibodies against the virus than those carrying female fetuses.

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