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      COVID-19 Autopsies, Oklahoma, USA

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          Abstract

          Objectives

          To report the methods and findings of two complete autopsies of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS -CoV -2) positive individuals who died in Oklahoma (United States) in March 2020.

          Methods

          Complete postmortem examinations were performed according to standard procedures in a negative-pressure autopsy suite/isolation room using personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, eye protection, and gowns. The diagnosis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was confirmed by real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction testing on postmortem swabs.

          Results

          A 77-year-old obese man with a history of hypertension, splenectomy, and 6 days of fever and chills died while being transported for medical care. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on postmortem nasopharyngeal and lung parenchymal swabs. Autopsy revealed diffuse alveolar damage and chronic inflammation and edema in the bronchial mucosa. A 42-year-old obese man with a history of myotonic dystrophy developed abdominal pain followed by fever, shortness of breath, and cough. Postmortem nasopharyngeal swab was positive for SARS-CoV-2; lung parenchymal swabs were negative. Autopsy showed acute bronchopneumonia with evidence of aspiration. Neither autopsy revealed viral inclusions, mucus plugging in airways, eosinophils, or myocarditis.

          Conclusions

          SARS-CoV-2 testing can be performed at autopsy. Autopsy findings such as diffuse alveolar damage and airway inflammation reflect true virus-related pathology; other findings represent superimposed or unrelated processes.

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          Most cited references11

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          Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China

          Summary Background A recent cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, was caused by a novel betacoronavirus, the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We report the epidemiological, clinical, laboratory, and radiological characteristics and treatment and clinical outcomes of these patients. Methods All patients with suspected 2019-nCoV were admitted to a designated hospital in Wuhan. We prospectively collected and analysed data on patients with laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection by real-time RT-PCR and next-generation sequencing. Data were obtained with standardised data collection forms shared by WHO and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium from electronic medical records. Researchers also directly communicated with patients or their families to ascertain epidemiological and symptom data. Outcomes were also compared between patients who had been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and those who had not. Findings By Jan 2, 2020, 41 admitted hospital patients had been identified as having laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection. Most of the infected patients were men (30 [73%] of 41); less than half had underlying diseases (13 [32%]), including diabetes (eight [20%]), hypertension (six [15%]), and cardiovascular disease (six [15%]). Median age was 49·0 years (IQR 41·0–58·0). 27 (66%) of 41 patients had been exposed to Huanan seafood market. One family cluster was found. Common symptoms at onset of illness were fever (40 [98%] of 41 patients), cough (31 [76%]), and myalgia or fatigue (18 [44%]); less common symptoms were sputum production (11 [28%] of 39), headache (three [8%] of 38), haemoptysis (two [5%] of 39), and diarrhoea (one [3%] of 38). Dyspnoea developed in 22 (55%) of 40 patients (median time from illness onset to dyspnoea 8·0 days [IQR 5·0–13·0]). 26 (63%) of 41 patients had lymphopenia. All 41 patients had pneumonia with abnormal findings on chest CT. Complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome (12 [29%]), RNAaemia (six [15%]), acute cardiac injury (five [12%]) and secondary infection (four [10%]). 13 (32%) patients were admitted to an ICU and six (15%) died. Compared with non-ICU patients, ICU patients had higher plasma levels of IL2, IL7, IL10, GSCF, IP10, MCP1, MIP1A, and TNFα. Interpretation The 2019-nCoV infection caused clusters of severe respiratory illness similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and was associated with ICU admission and high mortality. Major gaps in our knowledge of the origin, epidemiology, duration of human transmission, and clinical spectrum of disease need fulfilment by future studies. Funding Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
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            Pathological findings of COVID-19 associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome

            Since late December, 2019, an outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19; previously known as 2019-nCoV)1, 2 was reported in Wuhan, China, 2 which has subsequently affected 26 countries worldwide. In general, COVID-19 is an acute resolved disease but it can also be deadly, with a 2% case fatality rate. Severe disease onset might result in death due to massive alveolar damage and progressive respiratory failure.2, 3 As of Feb 15, about 66 580 cases have been confirmed and over 1524 deaths. However, no pathology has been reported due to barely accessible autopsy or biopsy.2, 3 Here, we investigated the pathological characteristics of a patient who died from severe infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by postmortem biopsies. This study is in accordance with regulations issued by the National Health Commission of China and the Helsinki Declaration. Our findings will facilitate understanding of the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and improve clinical strategies against the disease. A 50-year-old man was admitted to a fever clinic on Jan 21, 2020, with symptoms of fever, chills, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. He reported a travel history to Wuhan Jan 8–12, and that he had initial symptoms of mild chills and dry cough on Jan 14 (day 1 of illness) but did not see a doctor and kept working until Jan 21 (figure 1 ). Chest x-ray showed multiple patchy shadows in both lungs (appendix p 2), and a throat swab sample was taken. On Jan 22 (day 9 of illness), the Beijing Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed by reverse real-time PCR assay that the patient had COVID-19. Figure 1 Timeline of disease course according to days from initial presentation of illness and days from hospital admission, from Jan 8–27, 2020 SARS-CoV-2=severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. He was immediately admitted to the isolation ward and received supplemental oxygen through a face mask. He was given interferon alfa-2b (5 million units twice daily, atomisation inhalation) and lopinavir plus ritonavir (500 mg twice daily, orally) as antiviral therapy, and moxifloxacin (0·4 g once daily, intravenously) to prevent secondary infection. Given the serious shortness of breath and hypoxaemia, methylprednisolone (80 mg twice daily, intravenously) was administered to attenuate lung inflammation. Laboratory tests results are listed in the appendix (p 4). After receiving medication, his body temperature reduced from 39·0 to 36·4 °C. However, his cough, dyspnoea, and fatigue did not improve. On day 12 of illness, after initial presentation, chest x-ray showed progressive infiltrate and diffuse gridding shadow in both lungs. He refused ventilator support in the intensive care unit repeatedly because he suffered from claustrophobia; therefore, he received high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen therapy (60% concentration, flow rate 40 L/min). On day 13 of illness, the patient's symptoms had still not improved, but oxygen saturation remained above 95%. In the afternoon of day 14 of illness, his hypoxaemia and shortness of breath worsened. Despite receiving HFNC oxygen therapy (100% concentration, flow rate 40 L/min), oxygen saturation values decreased to 60%, and the patient had sudden cardiac arrest. He was immediately given invasive ventilation, chest compression, and adrenaline injection. Unfortunately, the rescue was not successful, and he died at 18:31 (Beijing time). Biopsy samples were taken from lung, liver, and heart tissue of the patient. Histological examination showed bilateral diffuse alveolar damage with cellular fibromyxoid exudates (figure 2A, B ). The right lung showed evident desquamation of pneumocytes and hyaline membrane formation, indicating acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS; figure 2A). The left lung tissue displayed pulmonary oedema with hyaline membrane formation, suggestive of early-phase ARDS (figure 2B). Interstitial mononuclear inflammatory infiltrates, dominated by lymphocytes, were seen in both lungs. Multinucleated syncytial cells with atypical enlarged pneumocytes characterised by large nuclei, amphophilic granular cytoplasm, and prominent nucleoli were identified in the intra-alveolar spaces, showing viral cytopathic-like changes. No obvious intranuclear or intracytoplasmic viral inclusions were identified. Figure 2 Pathological manifestations of right (A) and left (B) lung tissue, liver tissue (C), and heart tissue (D) in a patient with severe pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2 SARS-CoV-2=severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The pathological features of COVID-19 greatly resemble those seen in SARS and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infection.4, 5 In addition, the liver biopsy specimens of the patient with COVID-19 showed moderate microvesicular steatosis and mild lobular and portal activity (figure 2C), indicating the injury could have been caused by either SARS-CoV-2 infection or drug-induced liver injury. There were a few interstitial mononuclear inflammatory infiltrates, but no other substantial damage in the heart tissue (figure 2D). Peripheral blood was prepared for flow cytometric analysis. We found that the counts of peripheral CD4 and CD8 T cells were substantially reduced, while their status was hyperactivated, as evidenced by the high proportions of HLA-DR (CD4 3·47%) and CD38 (CD8 39·4%) double-positive fractions (appendix p 3). Moreover, there was an increased concentration of highly proinflammatory CCR6+ Th17 in CD4 T cells (appendix p 3). Additionally, CD8 T cells were found to harbour high concentrations of cytotoxic granules, in which 31·6% cells were perforin positive, 64·2% cells were granulysin positive, and 30·5% cells were granulysin and perforin double-positive (appendix p 3). Our results imply that overactivation of T cells, manifested by increase of Th17 and high cytotoxicity of CD8 T cells, accounts for, in part, the severe immune injury in this patient. X-ray images showed rapid progression of pneumonia and some differences between the left and right lung. In addition, the liver tissue showed moderate microvesicular steatosis and mild lobular activity, but there was no conclusive evidence to support SARS-CoV-2 infection or drug-induced liver injury as the cause. There were no obvious histological changes seen in heart tissue, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 infection might not directly impair the heart. Although corticosteroid treatment is not routinely recommended to be used for SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia, 1 according to our pathological findings of pulmonary oedema and hyaline membrane formation, timely and appropriate use of corticosteroids together with ventilator support should be considered for the severe patients to prevent ARDS development. Lymphopenia is a common feature in the patients with COVID-19 and might be a critical factor associated with disease severity and mortality. 3 Our clinical and pathological findings in this severe case of COVID-19 can not only help to identify a cause of death, but also provide new insights into the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2-related pneumonia, which might help physicians to formulate a timely therapeutic strategy for similar severe patients and reduce mortality. This online publication has been corrected. The corrected version first appeared at thelancet.com/respiratory on February 25, 2020
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              Pulmonary pathology of early phase 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia in two patients with lung cancer

              There is currently a lack of pathologic data on the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pneumonia, or COVID-19, from autopsy or biopsy. Two patients who recently underwent lung lobectomies for adenocarcinoma were retrospectively found to have had COVID-19 at the time of surgery. These two cases thus provide important first opportunities to study the pathology of COVID-19. Pathologic examinations revealed that, apart from the tumors, the lungs of both patients exhibited edema, proteinaceous exudate, focal reactive hyperplasia of pneumocytes with patchy inflammatory cellular infiltration, and multinucleated giant cells. Hyaline membranes were not prominent. Since both patients did not exhibit symptoms of pneumonia at the time of surgery, these changes likely represent an early phase of the lung pathology of COVID-19 pneumonia.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Am J Clin Pathol
                Am. J. Clin. Pathol
                ajcp
                American Journal of Clinical Pathology
                Oxford University Press (US )
                0002-9173
                1943-7722
                10 April 2020
                10 April 2020
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Office of the Chief Medical Examiner , Oklahoma City, OK
                [2 ] Section of Thoracic Imaging, Imaging Institute, Cleveland Clinic , Cleveland, OH
                [3 ] Department of Pathology, Cleveland Clinic , Cleveland, OH
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, MD; mukhops@ 123456ccf.org .
                Article
                aqaa062
                10.1093/ajcp/aqaa062
                7184436
                32275742
                a8866dda-d3e5-4b57-a1ce-d35454f4d570
                © American Society for Clinical Pathology, 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

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                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic or until permissions are revoked in writing. Upon expiration of these permissions, PMC is granted a perpetual license to make this article available via PMC and Europe PMC, consistent with existing copyright protections.

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                Pages: 9
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                AcademicSubjects/MED00690
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