Changing Policy and Practice

At a glance

The impact of SARS-CoV-2 on the fetal brain

Lead researcher

Dr Katie Long


King's College London



Amount awarded


Last updated



The virus causing COVID-19 has been found to impact the fetal brain during the first and second trimester of pregnancy.

Dr Katie Long Dr Katie Long

Today, after four years of COVID-19, cases are far lower than they have been before. However, the virus is still affecting people in ways that scientists are only now beginning to understand.

Dr Katie Long from King's College London has carried out a recent study on the effects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, on the fetal brain. Her team found that the virus can infect the fetal brain during the first and second trimester of pregnancy.

Dr Long found that the virus was linked with haemorrhages (small bleeds) in the outer cortex layer of the fetal brain, which in turn, affected the functionality of blood vessels in the brain and increased the number of immune cells in the tissue.

Our Changing Policy and Practice Award has enabled the team to share these findings beyond the scientific community. This will ensure that policymakers and others making decisions regarding COVID-19, vaccination and pregnancy care are fully informed about the potential short and long-term effects on fetal brain development - as well as what steps should be taken to migitate these impacts.

To support this objective, Dr Long's team will to assess the current perceptions of COVID-19 risk to fetal development. Using the advice of expert panels and patient groups, they hope to develop a targeted media strategy and a policy pack that they can share with pregnant mothers, maternity services, and other key decision-makers involved with COVID-19 vaccination and care.

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