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Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol ; 260(5): 1789-1797, 2022 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1787813


PURPOSE: To detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA in post-mortem human eyes. Ocular symptoms are common in patients with COVID-19. In some cases, they can occur before the onset of respiratory and other symptoms. Accordingly, SARS-CoV-2 RNA has been detected in conjunctival samples and tear film of patients suffering from COVID-19. However, the detection and clinical relevance of intravitreal SARS-CoV-2 RNA still remain unclear due to so far contradictory reports in the literature. METHODS: In our study 20 patients with confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 were evaluated post-mortem to assess the conjunctival and intraocular presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using sterile pulmonary and conjunctival swabs as well as intravitreal biopsies (IVB) via needle puncture. SARS-CoV-2 PCR and whole genome sequencing from the samples of the deceased patients were performed. Medical history and comorbidities of all subjects were recorded and analyzed for correlations with viral data. RESULTS: SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 10 conjunctival (50%) and 6 vitreal (30%) samples. SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequencing showed the distribution of cases largely reflecting the frequency of circulating lineages in the Munich area at the time of examination with no preponderance of specific variants. Especially there was no association between the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in IVBs and infection with the variant of concern (VOC) alpha. Viral load in bronchial samples correlated positively with load in conjunctiva but not the vitreous. CONCLUSION: SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be detected post mortem in conjunctival tissues and IVBs. This is relevant to the planning of ophthalmologic surgical procedures in COVID-19 patients, such as pars plana vitrectomy or corneal transplantation. Furthermore, not only during surgery but also in an outpatient setting it is important to emphasize the need for personal protection in order to avoid infection and spreading of SARS-CoV-2. Prospective studies are needed, especially to determine the clinical relevance of conjunctival and intravitreal SARS-CoV-2 detection concerning intraocular affection in active COVID-19 state and in post-COVID syndrome.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/diagnosis , Conjunctiva , Humans , RNA, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Tears/chemistry
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 1589, 2022 03 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1764177


Progressive respiratory failure and hyperinflammatory response is the primary cause of death in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Despite mounting evidence of disruption of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in COVID-19, relatively little is known about the tropism of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to adrenal glands and associated changes. Here we demonstrate adrenal viral tropism and replication in COVID-19 patients. Adrenal glands showed inflammation accompanied by inflammatory cell death. Histopathologic analysis revealed widespread microthrombosis and severe adrenal injury. In addition, activation of the glycerophospholipid metabolism and reduction of cortisone intensities were characteristic for COVID-19 specimens. In conclusion, our autopsy series suggests that SARS-CoV-2 facilitates the induction of adrenalitis. Given the central role of adrenal glands in immunoregulation and taking into account the significant adrenal injury observed, monitoring of developing adrenal insufficiency might be essential in acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and during recovery.

COVID-19 , Autopsy , Humans , Research , SARS-CoV-2 , Tropism
PLoS One ; 16(7): e0254872, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1317145


BACKGROUND: COVID-19 is only partly understood, and the level of evidence available in terms of pathophysiology, epidemiology, therapy, and long-term outcome remains limited. During the early phase of the pandemic, it was necessary to effectively investigate all aspects of this new disease. Autopsy can be a valuable procedure to investigate the internal organs with special techniques to obtain information on the disease, especially the distribution and type of organ involvement. METHODS: During the first wave of COVID-19 in Germany, autopsies of 19 deceased patients were performed. Besides gross examination, the organs were analyzed with standard histology and polymerase-chain-reaction for SARS-CoV-2. Polymerase chain reaction positive localizations were further analyzed with immunohistochemistry and RNA-in situ hybridization for SARS-CoV-2. RESULTS: Eighteen of 19 patients were found to have died due to COVID-19. Clinically relevant histological changes were only observed in the lungs. Diffuse alveolar damage in considerably different degrees was noted in 18 cases. Other organs, including the central nervous system, did not show specific micromorphological alterations. In terms of SARS-CoV-2 detection, the focus remains on the upper airways and lungs. This is true for both the number of positive samples and the viral load. A highly significant inverse correlation between the stage of diffuse alveolar damage and viral load was found on a case and a sample basis. Mediastinal lymph nodes and fat were also affected by the virus at high frequencies. By contrast, other organs rarely exhibited a viral infection. Moderate to strong correlations between the methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2 were observed for the lungs and for other organs. CONCLUSIONS: The lung is the most affected organ in gross examination, histology and polymerase chain reaction. SARS-CoV-2 detection in other organs did not reveal relevant or specific histological changes. Moreover, we did not find CNS involvement.

COVID-19/virology , Central Nervous System/virology , Lung/virology , Lymph Nodes/virology , Viral Load , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Autopsy/statistics & numerical data , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/pathology , Central Nervous System/pathology , Female , Humans , Lung/pathology , Lymph Nodes/pathology , Male , Middle Aged