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1.
Virchows Arch ; 2022 Apr 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1787815

ABSTRACT

The use of autopsies in medicine has been declining. The COVID-19 pandemic has documented and rejuvenated the importance of autopsies as a tool of modern medicine. In this review, we discuss the various autopsy techniques, the applicability of modern analytical methods to understand the pathophysiology of COVID-19, the major pathological organ findings, limitations or current studies, and open questions. This article summarizes published literature and the consented experience of the nationwide network of clinical, neuro-, and forensic pathologists from 27 German autopsy centers with more than 1200 COVID-19 autopsies. The autopsy tissues revealed that SARS-CoV-2 can be found in virtually all human organs and tissues, and the majority of cells. Autopsies have revealed the organ and tissue tropism of SARS-CoV-2, and the morphological features of COVID-19. This is characterized by diffuse alveolar damage, combined with angiocentric disease, which in turn is characterized by endothelial dysfunction, vascular inflammation, (micro-) thrombosis, vasoconstriction, and intussusceptive angiogenesis. These findings explained the increased pulmonary resistance in COVID-19 and supported the recommendations for antithrombotic treatment in COVID-19. In contrast, in extra-respiratory organs, pathological changes are often nonspecific and unclear to which extent these changes are due to direct infection vs. indirect/secondary mechanisms of organ injury, or a combination thereof. Ongoing research using autopsies aims at answering questions on disease mechanisms, e.g., focusing on variants of concern, and future challenges, such as post-COVID conditions. Autopsies are an invaluable tool in medicine and national and international interdisciplinary collaborative autopsy-based research initiatives are essential.

2.
von Stillfried, Saskia, Bülow, Roman David, Röhrig, Rainer, Boor, Peter, Böcker, Jana, Schmidt, Jens, Tholen, Pauline, Majeed, Raphael, Wienströer, Jan, Weis, Joachim, Bremer, Juliane, Knüchel, Ruth, Breitbach, Anna, Cacchi, Claudio, Freeborn, Benita, Wucherpfennig, Sophie, Spring, Oliver, Braun, Georg, Römmele, Christoph, Märkl, Bruno, Claus, Rainer, Dhillon, Christine, Schaller, Tina, Sipos, Eva, Hirschbühl, Klaus, Wittmann, Michael, Kling, Elisabeth, Kröncke, Thomas, Heppner, Frank L.; Meinhardt, Jenny, Radbruch, Helena, Streit, Simon, Horst, David, Elezkurtaj, Sefer, Quaas, Alexander, Göbel, Heike, Hansen, Torsten, Titze, Ulf, Lorenzen, Johann, Reuter, Thomas, Woloszyn, Jaroslaw, Baretton, Gustavo, Hilsenbeck, Julia, Meinhardt, Matthias, Pablik, Jessica, Sommer, Linna, Holotiuk, Olaf, Meinel, Meike, Mahlke, Nina, Esposito, Irene, Crudele, Graziano, Seidl, Maximilian, Amann, Kerstin U.; Coras, Roland, Hartmann, Arndt, Eichhorn, Philip, Haller, Florian, Lange, Fabienne, Schmid, Kurt Werner, Ingenwerth, Marc, Rawitzer, Josefine, Theegarten, Dirk, Birngruber, Christoph G.; Wild, Peter, Gradhand, Elise, Smith, Kevin, Werner, Martin, Schilling, Oliver, Acker, Till, Gattenlöhner, Stefan, Stadelmann, Christine, Metz, Imke, Franz, Jonas, Stork, Lidia, Thomas, Carolina, Zechel, Sabrina, Ströbel, Philipp, Wickenhauser, Claudia, Fathke, Christine, Harder, Anja, Ondruschka, Benjamin, Dietz, Eric, Edler, Carolin, Fitzek, Antonia, Fröb, Daniela, Heinemann, Axel, Heinrich, Fabian, Klein, Anke, Kniep, Inga, Lohner, Larissa, Möbius, Dustin, Püschel, Klaus, Schädler, Julia, Schröder, Ann-Sophie, Sperhake, Jan-Peter, Aepfelbacher, Martin, Fischer, Nicole, Lütgehetmann, Marc, Pfefferle, Susanne, Glatzel, Markus, Krasemann, Susanne, Matschke, Jakob, Jonigk, Danny, Werlein, Christopher, Schirmacher, Peter, Domke, Lisa Maria, Hartmann, Laura, Klein, Isabel Madeleine, Schwab, Constantin, Röcken, Christoph, Friemann, Johannes, Langer, Dorothea, Roth, Wilfried, Strobl, Stephanie, Rudelius, Martina, Stock, Konrad Friedrich, Weichert, Wilko, Delbridge, Claire, Kasajima, Atsuko, Kuhn, Peer-Hendrik, Slotta-Huspenina, Julia, Weirich, Gregor, Barth, Peter, Wardelmann, Eva, Evert, Katja, Büttner, Andreas, Manhart, Johannes, Nigbur, Stefan, Bittmann, Iris, Fend, Falko, Bösmüller, Hans, Granai, Massimo, Klingel, Karin, Warm, Verena, Steinestel, Konrad, Umathum, Vincent Gottfried, Rosenwald, Andreas, Kurz, Florian, Vogt, Niklas.
The Lancet Regional Health - Europe ; : 100330, 2022.
Article in English | ScienceDirect | ID: covidwho-1693139

ABSTRACT

Summary Background Autopsies are an important tool in medicine, dissecting disease pathophysiology and causes of death. In COVID-19, autopsies revealed e.g., the effects on pulmonary (micro)vasculature or the nervous system, systemic viral spread, or the interplay with the immune system. To facilitate multicentre autopsy-based studies and provide a central hub supporting autopsy centres, researchers, and data analyses and reporting, in April 2020 the German COVID-19 Autopsy Registry (DeRegCOVID) was launched. Methods The electronic registry uses a web-based electronic case report form. Participation is voluntary and biomaterial remains at the respective site (decentralized biobanking). As of October 2021, the registry included N=1129 autopsy cases, with 69271 single data points including information on 18674 available biospecimens gathered from 29 German sites. Findings In the N=1095 eligible records, the male-to-female ratio was 1·8:1, with peaks at 65-69 and 80-84 years in males and >85 years in females. The analysis of the chain of events directly leading to death revealed COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death in 86% of the autopsy cases, whereas in 14% COVID-19 was a concomitant disease. The most common immediate cause of death was diffuse alveolar damage, followed by multi-organ failure. The registry supports several scientific projects, public outreach and provides reports to the federal health authorities, leading to legislative adaptation of the German Infection Protection Act, facilitating the performance of autopsies during pandemics. Interpretation A national autopsy registry can provide multicentre quantitative information on COVID-19 deaths on a national level, supporting medical research, political decision-making and public discussion. Funding German Federal Ministries of Education and Research and Health. Hintergrund: Obduktionen sind ein wichtiges Instrument in der Medizin, um die Pathophysiologie von Krankheiten und Todesursachen zu untersuchen. Im Rahmen von COVID-19 wurden durch Obduktionen z.B. die Auswirkungen auf die pulmonale Mikrovaskulatur, das Nervensystem, die systemische Virusausbreitung, und das Zusammenspiel mit dem Immunsystem untersucht. Um multizentrische, auf Obduktionen basierende Studien zu erleichtern und eine zentrale Anlaufstelle zu schaffen, die Obduktionszentren, Forscher sowie Datenanalysen und -berichte unterstützt, wurde im April 2020 das deutsche COVID-19-Autopsieregister (DeRegCOVID) ins Leben gerufen. Methoden: Das elektronische Register verwendet ein webbasiertes elektronisches Fallberichtsformular. Die Teilnahme ist freiwillig und das Biomaterial verbleibt am jeweiligen Standort (dezentrales Biobanking). Im Oktober 2021 umfasste das Register N=1129 Obduktionsfälle mit 69271 einzelnen Datenpunkten, die Informationen über 18674 verfügbare Bioproben enthielten, die von 29 deutschen Standorten gesammelt wurden. Ergebnisse: In den N=1095 ausgewerteten Datensätzen betrug das Verhältnis von Männern zu Frauen 1,8:1 mit Spitzenwerten bei 65-69 und 80-84 Jahren bei Männern und >85 Jahren bei Frauen. Die Analyse der Sequenz der unmittelbar zum Tod führenden Ereignisse ergab, dass in 86 % der Obduktionsfälle COVID-19 die zugrunde liegende Todesursache war, während in 14 % der Fälle COVID-19 eine Begleiterkrankung war. Die häufigste unmittelbare Todesursache war der diffuse Alveolarschaden, gefolgt von Multiorganversagen. Das Register unterstützt mehrere wissenschaftliche Projekte, die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und liefert Berichte an die Bundesgesundheitsbehörden, was zu einer Anpassung des deutschen Infektionsschutzgesetzes führte und die Durchführung von Obduktionen in Pandemien erleichtert. Interpretation: Ein nationales Obduktionsregister kann multizentrische quantitative Informationen über COVID-19-Todesfälle auf nationaler Ebene liefern und damit die medizinische Forschung, die politische Entscheidungsfindung und die öffentliche Diskussion unterstützen. Finanzierung: Bundesministerien für Bildung und Forschung und für Gesundheit.

3.
EuropePMC; 2020.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-322047

ABSTRACT

Here we report a possible mechanistic link between coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and diabetes. In addition to its known role on the respiratory system, the human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to affect the endocrine system including the pancreas 1-4. It has been suggested that the virus can induce type 1 diabetes 5-8. Therefore, we isolated human pancreatic islets and examined the expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and the protease TMPRSS2, known to be important for SARS-CoV-2 entry 9. Furthermore, we investigated the expression of an alternative entry receptor, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4 also known as CD26) 10. We found all three proteins expressed in pancreatic beta-cells and confirmed that beta-cells are permissive to infection with SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviruses. Additionally, we performed a comprehensive analysis of ACE2, TMPRSS2 and DPP4 expression in pancreata of 10 patients who died of COVID-19. We report significant variation between the samples and detected the highest levels of ACE2 and DPP4 expression in patients exhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infiltration shown by confocal microscopy, RNAscope and electron microscopy. Furthermore, necroptotic cell death was observed in beta-cells of the COVID-19 patients. Taken together, these data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 viral infection of pancreatic beta-cells may trigger necroptosis and islet impairment.

4.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-321642

ABSTRACT

Background: A number of histopathological reports showed the presence of widespread thrombosis and associated morphology in pulmonary vessels of patients with COVID-19. Later, we identified vascular occlusions with neutrophils and neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), as major components, in autopsy tissue from patients with COVID-19.Methods: We, here investigated 109 lung specimens from 17 patients with COVID-19 and compared them with 11 lung specimens from two patients who succumbed to pulmonary embolism and acute cardiac. Healthy lung specimens from four patients served as controls. We studied these autopsy lung specimens using immunohistochemistry and native endogenous fluorescence.Findings: We present a label-free imaging technique using native endogenous fluorescence that enables the visualization of occluded vessels. We demonstrate that native endogenous fluorescence identified occluded vessels in tissue specimens from patients with COVID-19.Interpretation: Label-free detection of occluded vessels enabled the detection of affected occluded vessels in lung specimens of patients with COVID-19 where the occluding components showed varying contents of neutrophil-derived materials.Funding Statement: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), EU, Volkswagen-StiftungDeclaration of Interests: All authors have no conflicts of interests to declare.Ethics Approval Statement: An institutional approval from each local Ethical Committee was obtained (permit #193_13B;permit # 174_20B;EK 092/20;EK 119/20;EK 460/20).

6.
Virchows Arch ; 479(1): 97-108, 2021 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1574264

ABSTRACT

Between April and June 2020, i.e., during the first wave of pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), 55 patients underwent long-term treatment in the intensive care unit at the University Hospital of Regensburg. Most of them were transferred from smaller hospitals, often due to the need for an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation system. Autopsy was performed in 8/17 COVID-19-proven patients after long-term treatment (mean: 33.6 days). Autopsy revealed that the typical pathological changes occurring during the early stages of the disease (e.g., thrombosis, endothelitis, capillaritis) are less prevalent at this stage, while severe diffuse alveolar damage and especially coinfection with different fungal species were the most conspicuous finding. In addition, signs of macrophage activation syndrome was detected in 7 of 8 patients. Thus, fungal infections were a leading cause of death in our cohort of severely ill patients and may alter clinical management of patients, particularly in long-term periods of treatment.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/microbiology , Coinfection , Lung Diseases, Fungal/microbiology , Lung/microbiology , Multiple Organ Failure/microbiology , Adult , Aged , COVID-19/drug therapy , COVID-19/mortality , COVID-19/pathology , COVID-19/therapy , Cause of Death , Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation , Female , Humans , Intensive Care Units , Lung/pathology , Lung/virology , Lung Diseases, Fungal/mortality , Lung Diseases, Fungal/pathology , Macrophage Activation Syndrome/microbiology , Macrophage Activation Syndrome/pathology , Male , Middle Aged , Multiple Organ Failure/mortality , Multiple Organ Failure/pathology , Multiple Organ Failure/virology , Risk Factors , Time Factors , Treatment Outcome
7.
Front Immunol ; 12: 740260, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1506482

ABSTRACT

Increased left ventricular fibrosis has been reported in patients hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It is unclear whether this fibrosis is a consequence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection or a risk factor for severe disease progression. We observed increased fibrosis in the left ventricular myocardium of deceased COVID-19 patients, compared with matched controls. We also detected increased mRNA levels of soluble interleukin-1 receptor-like 1 (sIL1-RL1) and transforming growth factor ß1 (TGF-ß1) in the left ventricular myocardium of deceased COVID-19 patients. Biochemical analysis of blood sampled from patients admitted to the emergency department (ED) with COVID-19 revealed highly elevated levels of TGF-ß1 mRNA in these patients compared to controls. Left ventricular strain measured by echocardiography as a marker of pre-existing cardiac fibrosis correlated strongly with blood TGF-ß1 mRNA levels and predicted disease severity in COVID-19 patients. In the left ventricular myocardium and lungs of COVID-19 patients, we found increased neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) RNA levels, which correlated strongly with the prevalence of pulmonary SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid. Cardiac and pulmonary fibrosis may therefore predispose these patients to increased cellular viral entry in the lung, which may explain the worse clinical outcome observed in our cohort. Our study demonstrates that patients at risk of clinical deterioration can be identified early by echocardiographic strain analysis and quantification of blood TGF-ß1 mRNA performed at the time of first medical contact.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/physiopathology , Heart Ventricles/pathology , Myocardium/pathology , Pulmonary Fibrosis/physiopathology , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Adult , Aged , COVID-19/immunology , Female , Fibrosis , Heart Ventricles/metabolism , Humans , Interleukin-1 Receptor-Like 1 Protein/genetics , Interleukin-1 Receptor-Like 1 Protein/metabolism , Male , Middle Aged , Myocardium/metabolism , Neuropilin-1/genetics , Neuropilin-1/metabolism , Pulmonary Fibrosis/immunology , Risk , Severity of Illness Index , Transforming Growth Factor beta1/genetics , Transforming Growth Factor beta1/metabolism , Viral Load
9.
Mycoses ; 65(1): 103-109, 2022 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1470452

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Most COVID-19-associated mucormycosis (CAM) cases are reported from India and neighbouring countries. Anecdotally cases from Europe have been presented. OBJECTIVE: To estimate the disease burden and describe the clinical presentation of CAM in Germany. METHODS: We identified cases through German mycology networks and scientific societies, and collected anonymised clinical information via FungiScope®. RESULTS: We identified 13 CAM cases from six tertiary referral hospitals diagnosed between March 2020 and June 2021. Twelve patients had severe or critical COVID-19, eleven were mechanically ventilated for a median of 8 days (range 1-27 days) before diagnosis of CAM. Eleven patients received systemic corticosteroids. Additional underlying medical conditions were reported for all but one patient, five were immunocompromised because of malignancy or organ transplantation, three were diabetic. Eleven patients developed pneumonia. Mortality was 53.8% with a median time from diagnosis of mucormycosis to death of 9 days (range 0-214 days) despite treatment with liposomal amphotericin B and/or isavuconazole in 10 of 13 cases. CAM prevalence amongst hospitalised COVID-19 patients overall (0.67% and 0.58% in two centres) and those admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) (1.47%, 1.78% and 0.15% in three centres) was significantly higher compared to non-COVID-19 patients (P < .001 for respective comparisons). CONCLUSION: COVID-19-associated mucormycosis is rare in Germany, mostly reported in patients with comorbidities and impaired immune system and severe COVID-19 treated in the ICU with high mortality compared to mainly rhino-orbito-cerebral CAM in patients with mild COVID-19 in India. Risk for CAM is higher in hospitalised COVID-19 patients than in other patients.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Mucormycosis , Antifungal Agents/therapeutic use , COVID-19/complications , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Mucormycosis/diagnosis , Mucormycosis/drug therapy , Mucormycosis/epidemiology , Tertiary Care Centers
10.
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 3534, 2021 06 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1265954

ABSTRACT

Metabolic diseases are associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 and conversely, new-onset hyperglycemia and complications of preexisting diabetes have been observed in COVID-19 patients. Here, we performed a comprehensive analysis of pancreatic autopsy tissue from COVID-19 patients using immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, RNA scope and electron microscopy and detected SARS-CoV-2 viral infiltration of beta-cells in all patients. Using SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviruses, we confirmed that isolated human islet cells are permissive to infection. In eleven COVID-19 patients, we examined the expression of ACE2, TMPRSS and other receptors and factors, such as DPP4, HMBG1 and NRP1, that might facilitate virus entry. Whereas 70% of the COVID-19 patients expressed ACE2 in the vasculature, only 30% displayed ACE2-expression in beta-cells. Even in the absence of manifest new-onset diabetes, necroptotic cell death, immune cell infiltration and SARS-CoV-2 viral infection of pancreatic beta-cells may contribute to varying degrees of metabolic dysregulation in patients with COVID-19.


Subject(s)
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , COVID-19/pathology , Insulin-Secreting Cells/virology , Receptors, Coronavirus/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Adult , Aged , Autopsy , Diabetes Complications/pathology , Diabetes Complications/virology , Diabetes Mellitus/pathology , Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4/metabolism , Female , HMGN Proteins/metabolism , Humans , Insulin-Secreting Cells/metabolism , Male , Middle Aged , Neuropilin-1/metabolism , Organ Specificity/physiology
11.
ESC Heart Fail ; 8(1): 309-316, 2021 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1064347

ABSTRACT

AIMS: We aimed to assess whether expression of whole-blood RNA of sodium proton exchanger 1 (NHE1) and glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) is associated with COVID-19 infection and outcome in patients presenting to the emergency department with respiratory infections. Furthermore, we investigated NHE1 and GLUT1 expression in the myocardium of deceased COVID-19 patients. METHODS AND RESULTS: Whole-blood quantitative assessment of NHE1 and GLUT1 RNA was performed using quantitative PCR in patients with respiratory infection upon first contact in the emergency department and subsequently stratified by SARS-CoV-2 infection status. Assessment of NHE1 and GLUT1 RNA using PCR was also performed in left ventricular myocardium of deceased COVID-19 patients. NHE1 expression is up-regulated in whole blood of patients with COVID-19 compared with other respiratory infections at first medical contact in the emergency department (control: 0.0021 ± 0.0002, COVID-19: 0.0031 ± 0.0003, P = 0.01). The ratio of GLUT1 to NHE1 is significantly decreased in the blood of COVID-19 patients who are subsequently intubated and/or die (severe disease) compared with patients with moderate disease (moderate disease: 0.497 ± 0.083 vs. severe disease: 0.294 ± 0.0336, P = 0.036). This ratio is even further decreased in the myocardium of patients who deceased from COVID-19 in comparison with the myocardium of non-infected donors. CONCLUSIONS: NHE1 and GLUT1 may be critically involved in the disease progression of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We show here that SARS-CoV-2 infection critically disturbs ion channel expression in the heart. A decreased ratio of GLUT1/NHE1 could potentially serve as a biomarker for disease severity in patients with COVID-19.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/metabolism , Glucose Transporter Type 1/blood , Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 1/blood , COVID-19/blood , COVID-19/diagnosis , Case-Control Studies , Emergency Service, Hospital , Female , Glucose Transporter Type 1/metabolism , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Polymerase Chain Reaction , Predictive Value of Tests , Prospective Studies , RNA, Messenger/blood , Severity of Illness Index , Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 1/metabolism
13.
EBioMedicine ; 58: 102925, 2020 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-701831

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Coronavirus induced disease 2019 (COVID-19) can be complicated by severe organ damage leading to dysfunction of the lungs and other organs. The processes that trigger organ damage in COVID-19 are incompletely understood. METHODS: Samples were donated from hospitalized patients. Sera, plasma, and autopsy-derived tissue sections were examined employing flow cytometry, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, and immunohistochemistry. PATIENT FINDINGS: Here, we show that severe COVID-19 is characterized by a highly pronounced formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) inside the micro-vessels. Intravascular aggregation of NETs leads to rapid occlusion of the affected vessels, disturbed microcirculation, and organ damage. In severe COVID-19, neutrophil granulocytes are strongly activated and adopt a so-called low-density phenotype, prone to spontaneously form NETs. In accordance, markers indicating NET turnover are consistently increased in COVID-19 and linked to disease severity. Histopathology of the lungs and other organs from COVID-19 patients showed congestions of numerous micro-vessels by aggregated NETs associated with endothelial damage. INTERPRETATION: These data suggest that organ dysfunction in severe COVID-19 is associated with excessive NET formation and vascular damage. FUNDING: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), EU, Volkswagen-Stiftung.


Subject(s)
Coronavirus Infections/pathology , Extracellular Traps/metabolism , Microvessels/pathology , Neutrophils/metabolism , Pneumonia, Viral/pathology , Thrombosis/metabolism , COVID-19 , Cells, Cultured , Coronavirus Infections/complications , Coronavirus Infections/metabolism , Endothelium, Vascular/metabolism , Endothelium, Vascular/pathology , Humans , Microvessels/metabolism , Neutrophils/pathology , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/complications , Pneumonia, Viral/metabolism , Thrombosis/etiology , Thrombosis/pathology
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