Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Pathological Study of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) through Post-Mortem Core Biopsies

Version 1 : Received: 19 March 2020 / Approved: 20 March 2020 / Online: 20 March 2020 (09:24:10 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Tian, S., Xiong, Y., Liu, H. et al. Pathological study of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through postmortem core biopsies. Mod Pathol (2020). Tian, S., Xiong, Y., Liu, H. et al. Pathological study of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through postmortem core biopsies. Mod Pathol (2020).

Journal reference: Modern Pathology 2020
DOI: 10.1038/s41379-020-0536-x


Data on pathologic changes of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are scarce. To gain knowledge about the pathology that may contribute to disease progression and fatality, we performed post-mortem needle core biopsies of lung, liver, and heart in four patients who died of COVID-19 pneumonia. The patients’ ages ranged from 59 to 81, including 3 males and 1 female. Each patient had at least one underlying disease, including immunocompromised status (chronic lymphocytic leukemia and renal transplantation) or other conditions (cirrhosis, hypertension, and diabetes). Time from disease onset to death ranged from 15 to 52 days. All patients had elevated white blood cell counts, with significant rise toward the end, and all had lymphocytopenia except for the patient with leukemia. Histologically, the main findings are in the lungs, including injury to the alveolar epithelial cells, hyaline membrane formation, and hyperplasia of type II pneumocytes, all components of diffuse alveolar damage. Consolidation by fibroblastic proliferation with extracellular matrix and fibrin forming clusters in airspaces is evident. In one patient, the consolidation consists of abundant intra-alveolar neutrophilic infiltration, consistent with superimposed bacterial bronchopneumonia. The liver exhibits mild lobular infiltration by small lymphocytes, and centrilobular sinusoidal dilation. Patchy necrosis is also seen. The heart shows only focal mild fibrosis and mild myocardial hypertrophy, changes likely related to the underlying conditions. In conclusion, the post-mortem examinations show advanced diffuse alveolar damage, as well as superimposed bacterial pneumonia in some patients. Changes in the liver and heart are likely secondary or related to the underlying diseases.

Subject Areas

SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; pathology; post-mortem biopsy

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