Low-dose aspirin may prevent pregnancy complications from flu

Written By Mark

A recent study by researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology has revealed that a low dose of aspirin may treat blood vessel inflammation caused by infection with the influenza virus, which leads to improved blood flow to the placenta during pregnancy.

The study, published in Frontiers in Immunology on April 4 and reported by EurekAlert, found that fetuses and placentas in the mice studied were smaller than those in uninfected mice. Signs of low blood oxygen and poor blood vessel development were also evident in the fetuses.

In contrast, mice treated daily with a low dose of aspirin had less inflammation and improved fetal development.

How does the body respond to the influenza virus during pregnancy?

“It is clear that pregnancy changes how the body responds to the virus,” said Professor Stavros Selimidis, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and leader of the study.

The influenza virus during pregnancy can trigger an overactive and harmful immune response, causing it to spread around the body by traveling from the lungs through the blood vessels.

“We previously thought that the influenza virus only stayed in the lungs, but during pregnancy it escapes from the lungs to the rest of the body,” Selimidis added. “This infection can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life, and may also increase the risk of offspring developing cardiovascular disease later in life.”


“Influenza infection during pregnancy can mimic preeclampsia, a condition that occurs during pregnancy and causes inflammation of the aorta and blood vessels,” says lead researcher and RMIT postdoctoral fellow Stella Leong.

Preeclampsia usually occurs during the first half of pregnancy, and its symptoms include high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Pregnant women are usually advised to take low-dose aspirin to prevent preeclampsia, as aspirin prevents the body from making chemicals that cause inflammation.

“When the blood vessels are inflamed, blood flow is impaired and this affects the function of the aorta,” Leung said. “This is a particular problem during pregnancy, when good blood flow to the placenta is essential for fetal development.”