COVID-19 not associated with negative impact on oocytes and embryo development

In a recent study, outcomes on the human oocyte and early embryo development did not differ between patients infected and not infected with COVID-19.

There are no clear associations of COVID-19 infection with negative effects on the human oocyte and early embryo development, according to a recent study.

The number of patients infected with COVID-19 visiting fertility and in vitro fertilization centers in China has increased since the nationwide control policy for the disease changed in December 2022. Despite this, data on how COVID-19 impacts human oocytes and early-stage embryos remains limited.

As receptors associated with COVID-19 are co-expressed in gametes and fertilized eggs along with blastocyst ectodermal cells, an immune response against COVID-19 may negatively impact embryonic development. This concern has led some centers to cancel cycles or freeze oocytes in infected patients.

To determine the impact of COVID-19 infection on the human oocyte and early embryo development, investigators conducted a prospective cohort study. Three reproductive centers in Shandong province and Shanghai municipality were consulted for data on 906 couples.

Couples with 1 member infected with COVID-19 before oocyte retrieval were placed into a COVID-19 group, while those not infected before retrieval were placed into a non-COVID-19 group. Subgroups based on the time from infection to oocyte retrieval included a 7 daysor less group, a 7 to 14 day group, and a more than 14 day group.

The effects of COVID-19 were evaluated by comparing oocyte quality and early embryo development indicators between groups during follow-up. Besides body mass index, vaccination status, and ovarian simulation protocols, similar characteristics at baseline were observed between groups.

Most oocyte-related outcomes and embryo development outcomes did not significantly differ between the COVID-19 group and non-COVID-19 group. However, differences in the number of bipronuclear (2PN) zygotes were observed, with 6 for the COVID-19 group and 5 for the non-COVID-19 group.

Similar results were seen between subgroups, with more 2PN zygotes and a higher oocyte utilization rate seen in women infected 7 to 14 days before oocyte retrieval. These outcomes were not seen in women infected within 7 days of oocyte retrieval.

When comparing infections in female patients to those in male patients, investigators found a higher number of 2PN in the female population.

No clear detriment to oocyte quality or embryo development was found after COVID-19 infection, but investigators recommended weighing the pros and cons in women with acute infection. Further research is necessary to determine long-term pregnancy outcomes from COVID-19.


SARS-CoV-2 infection has no clear negative effects on human oocyte and early embryo development. EurekAlert. April 6, 2023. Accessed April 10, 2023.

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