ANKARA – Shedding more light into how early an individual could contract the novel coronavirus, scientists on Wednesday suggested that it might be as early as during the second week of pregnancy.

Embryos could be susceptible to coronavirus disease (Covid-19) if the mother gets sick, potentially affecting the fate of the pregnancy, Professors Magda Zernicka-Goetz and David Glover from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology said in a new study published at the Royal Society's journal Open Biology.

Questions concerning the potential effects on fetal health and successful pregnancy for those infected with SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19 disease, remain largely unanswered, the scientists said in the body abstract of their study, which motivated them to dig deeper into the examination of human pre-gastrulation embryos.

Amid conflicting clinical reports that have emerged regarding coronavirus infection in newborns whose mothers were infected, the new study explained that the stages of early embryo development are complex and delicate, and vulnerable to viral infections.

"Despite the remarkable plasticity of the embryo, it is particularly vulnerable at this time with about 60 percent of pregnancies failing during these first 14 days of development," it said.

The potential of viral infection through the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during early pregnancy via maternal blood, the study suggested, can have implications for the success of implantation, future placental, and fetal health.

The researchers found patterns of expression of the genes ACE2, which provide the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, and TMPRSS2, which provides the code for a molecule that cleaves both the viral spike protein and the ACE2 receptor, allowing infection to occur. These genes were expressed during key stages of the embryo's development.

The death toll worldwide from the novel coronavirus rose to over 701,300 on Wednesday, according to a running tally by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

Data showed the total number of cases worldwide exceeded 18.57 million, with 11.16 million recoveries. (Anadolu)