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This article is the author's final published version in Epigenetics Insights, Volume 16, January-December 2023.

The published version is available at Copyright © The Author(s) 2023. Published by SAGE Publications Ltd.



The global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). About 18.4% of total Covid-19 cases were reported in children. Even though vertical transmission from mother to infant is likely to occur at a low rate, exposure to COVID-19 during fetal life may alter DNA methylation patterns with potential long-term effects.


To determine if COVID-19 infection during pregnancy alters the DNA methylation patterns in umbilical cord blood cells from term infants and to identify potential pathways and genes affected by exposure to COVID-19 infection.


Umbilical cord blood was collected from 8 infants exposed to COVID-19 during pregnancy and 8 control infants with no COVID-19 exposure. Genomic DNA was isolated from umbilical cord blood cells and genome-wide DNA methylation was performed using Illumina Methylation EPIC Array.


119 differentially methylated loci were identified at the FDR level of 0.20 (64 hypermethylated loci and 55 hypomethylated loci) in umbilical cord blood cells of COVID-19 exposed neonates compared to the control group. Important canonical pathways identified by Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) were related to stress response (corticotropin releasing hormone signaling, glucocorticoid receptor signaling, and oxytocin in brain signaling pathway), and cardiovascular disease and development (nitric oxide signaling in the cardiovascular system, apelin cardiomyocyte signaling pathways, factors promoting cardiogenesis, and renin-angiotensin signaling). The genes affected by the differential methylations were associated with cardiac, renal, hepatic, neurological diseases, developmental and immunological disorders.


COVID-19 induces differential DNA methylation in umbilical cord blood cells. The differentially methylated genes may contribute to hepatic, renal, cardiac, developmental and immunological disorders in offspring born to mothers with COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, and their developmental regulation.

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