You must be aware of the term ‘placenta’. For those who do not know about it, the placenta is an organ that develops in a pregnant woman’s uterus and supports the fetus. It is the structure from which your baby’s umbilical cord arises and supplies nutrition and oxygen to the unborn child. It is considered to be like a babysitter to your baby in the womb that protects him from almost all sorts of infections. This is what was believed until now.

But a recent study published in the journal PLOS One has revealed that this important barrier is penetrable and viruses or bacteria that affect a pregnant woman may affect her unborn child as well. According to the researchers of Tulane University in the U.S., a common cold virus can infect the cells which comprise the placenta and can pass to your fetus.

Co-author Giovanni Piedimonte spoke about the subject and was quoted stating, “It supports our theory that when a woman develops a cold during pregnancy, the virus causing the maternal infection can spread to the fetus and cause a pulmonary infection even before birth.”

For the study, a few women donated their placentas and the scientists isolated three major cells namely cytotrophoblast, stroma fibroblasts and Hofbauer cells from those organs. Further, they exposed these three cells to a common cold virus named respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The study result showed that apart from cytotrophoblast cells, the other two were more likely to allow the virus to replicate. Notably, cytotrophoblast cells showed limited viral replication.

The most shocking revelation was that these cells do not explode or die after being invaded by the virus, which is considered as the general occurrence. Instead, these cells transfer the virus to the fetus through the intercellular channels. Notably, this condition can potentially lead to lung infection in the fetus that can later develop to childhood asthma.