The intricate interplay between maternal immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and the transfer of protective factors to the fetus remains unclear. By analyzing mother-neonate dyads from second and third trimester SARS-CoV-2 infections, our study shows that neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) are infrequently detected in cord blood. We uncovered that this is due to impaired IgG-NAb placental transfer in symptomatic infection and to the predominance of maternal SARS-CoV-2 NAbs of the IgA and IgM isotypes, which are prevented from crossing the placenta. Crucially, the balance between maternal antiviral response and transplacental transfer of IgG-NAbs appears to hinge on IL-6 and IL-10 produced in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, asymptomatic maternal infection was associated with expansion of anti–SARS-CoV-2 IgM and NK cell frequency. Our findings identify a protective role for IgA/IgM-NAbs in gestational SARS-CoV-2 infection and open the possibility that the maternal immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection might benefit the neonate in 2 ways, first by skewing maternal immune response toward immediate viral clearance, and second by endowing the neonate with protective mechanisms to curtail horizontal viral transmission in the critical postnatal period, via the priming of IgA/IgM-NAbs to be transferred by the breast milk and via NK cell expansion in the neonate.
Juliana Gonçalves, Magda Melro, Marta Alenquer, Catarina Araújo, Júlia Castro-Neves, Daniela Amaral-Silva, Filipe Ferreira, José S. Ramalho, Nádia Charepe, Fátima Serrano, Carlos Pontinha, Maria João Amorim, Helena Soares