(press release eLife). Their study of 11 autopsy cases, published today in eLife, may contribute to our understanding of how COVID-19 develops in the body following infection.
More than 24 million SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported to date, and the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 has exceeded 828,000 worldwide. COVID-19 occurs with varying degrees of severity. While most patients have mild symptoms, some experience more severe symptoms and may need to be hospitalised. A minority of those in hospital may enter a critical condition, with respiratory failure, blood vessel complications, or multiple organ dysfunction.
“Clinical observations suggest that COVID-19 is a systemic disease, meaning that it affects the entire body rather than just a single organ such as the lungs,” explains co-first author Stefanie Deinhardt-Emmer, Resident in Medical Microbiology, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany. “But we don’t currently have a clear understanding of disease development in humans and other organisms, due to the lack of appropriate experimental models. Investigating the viral distribution of SARS-CoV-2 within the human body and how this relates to tissue damage would help us address this gap.”
To do this, Deinhardt-Emmer and colleagues studied 11 autopsy cases of patients with COVID-19. They performed the autopsies at the early postmortem stage to minimise bias due to the degradation of tissues and viral ribonucleic acid (RNA – a molecule similar to DNA).