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1.
Nat Neurosci ; 24(11): 1522-1533, 2021 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1500484

ABSTRACT

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can damage cerebral small vessels and cause neurological symptoms. Here we describe structural changes in cerebral small vessels of patients with COVID-19 and elucidate potential mechanisms underlying the vascular pathology. In brains of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-infected individuals and animal models, we found an increased number of empty basement membrane tubes, so-called string vessels representing remnants of lost capillaries. We obtained evidence that brain endothelial cells are infected and that the main protease of SARS-CoV-2 (Mpro) cleaves NEMO, the essential modulator of nuclear factor-κB. By ablating NEMO, Mpro induces the death of human brain endothelial cells and the occurrence of string vessels in mice. Deletion of receptor-interacting protein kinase (RIPK) 3, a mediator of regulated cell death, blocks the vessel rarefaction and disruption of the blood-brain barrier due to NEMO ablation. Importantly, a pharmacological inhibitor of RIPK signaling prevented the Mpro-induced microvascular pathology. Our data suggest RIPK as a potential therapeutic target to treat the neuropathology of COVID-19.


Subject(s)
Blood-Brain Barrier/metabolism , Brain/metabolism , Coronavirus 3C Proteases/metabolism , Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins/metabolism , Microvessels/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Animals , Blood-Brain Barrier/pathology , Brain/pathology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Coronavirus 3C Proteases/genetics , Cricetinae , Female , Humans , Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins/genetics , Male , Mesocricetus , Mice , Mice, Inbred C57BL , Mice, Knockout , Mice, Transgenic , Microvessels/pathology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Vero Cells
2.
Nat Neurosci ; 24(11): 1522-1533, 2021 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1483143

ABSTRACT

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can damage cerebral small vessels and cause neurological symptoms. Here we describe structural changes in cerebral small vessels of patients with COVID-19 and elucidate potential mechanisms underlying the vascular pathology. In brains of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-infected individuals and animal models, we found an increased number of empty basement membrane tubes, so-called string vessels representing remnants of lost capillaries. We obtained evidence that brain endothelial cells are infected and that the main protease of SARS-CoV-2 (Mpro) cleaves NEMO, the essential modulator of nuclear factor-κB. By ablating NEMO, Mpro induces the death of human brain endothelial cells and the occurrence of string vessels in mice. Deletion of receptor-interacting protein kinase (RIPK) 3, a mediator of regulated cell death, blocks the vessel rarefaction and disruption of the blood-brain barrier due to NEMO ablation. Importantly, a pharmacological inhibitor of RIPK signaling prevented the Mpro-induced microvascular pathology. Our data suggest RIPK as a potential therapeutic target to treat the neuropathology of COVID-19.


Subject(s)
Blood-Brain Barrier/metabolism , Brain/metabolism , Coronavirus 3C Proteases/metabolism , Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins/metabolism , Microvessels/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Animals , Blood-Brain Barrier/pathology , Brain/pathology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Coronavirus 3C Proteases/genetics , Cricetinae , Female , Humans , Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins/genetics , Male , Mesocricetus , Mice , Mice, Inbred C57BL , Mice, Knockout , Mice, Transgenic , Microvessels/pathology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Vero Cells
3.
Sci Rep ; 11(1): 19342, 2021 09 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1442803

ABSTRACT

Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has become a global pandemic with significant mortality. Accurate information on the specific circumstances of death and whether patients died from or with SARS-CoV-2 is scarce. To distinguish COVID-19 from non-COVID-19 deaths, we performed a systematic review of 735 SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths in Hamburg, Germany, from March to December 2020, using conventional autopsy, ultrasound-guided minimally invasive autopsy, postmortem computed tomography and medical records. Statistical analyses including multiple logistic regression were used to compare both cohorts. 84.1% (n = 618) were classified as COVID-19 deaths, 6.4% (n = 47) as non-COVID-19 deaths, 9.5% (n = 70) remained unclear. Median age of COVID-19 deaths was 83.0 years, 54.4% were male. In the autopsy group (n = 283), the majority died of pneumonia and/or diffuse alveolar damage (73.6%; n = 187). Thromboses were found in 39.2% (n = 62/158 cases), pulmonary embolism in 22.1% (n = 56/253 cases). In 2020, annual mortality in Hamburg was about 5.5% higher than in the previous 20 years, of which 3.4% (n = 618) represented COVID-19 deaths. Our study highlights the need for mortality surveillance and postmortem examinations. The vast majority of individuals who died directly from SARS-CoV-2 infection were of advanced age and had multiple comorbidities.


Subject(s)
Autopsy , COVID-19 , Comorbidity , Adult , Age Factors , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Alveolar Epithelial Cells/pathology , Alveolar Epithelial Cells/virology , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/epidemiology , Female , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Lung/pathology , Male , Middle Aged , Mortality , Pneumonia , Prospective Studies , Pulmonary Embolism , SARS-CoV-2 , Thrombosis
5.
Am J Pathol ; 191(7): 1193-1208, 2021 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1283899

ABSTRACT

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) can arise from unknown causes, as in idiopathic PF, or as a consequence of infections, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Current treatments for PF slow, but do not stop, disease progression. We report that treatment with a runt-related transcription factor 1 (RUNX1) inhibitor (Ro24-7429), previously found to be safe, although ineffective, as a Tat inhibitor in patients with HIV, robustly ameliorates lung fibrosis and inflammation in the bleomycin-induced PF mouse model. RUNX1 inhibition blunted fundamental mechanisms downstream pathologic mediators of fibrosis and inflammation, including transforming growth factor-ß1 and tumor necrosis factor-α, in cultured lung epithelial cells, fibroblasts, and vascular endothelial cells, indicating pleiotropic effects. RUNX1 inhibition also reduced the expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and FES Upstream Region (FURIN), host proteins critical for SARS-CoV-2 infection, in mice and in vitro. A subset of human lungs with SARS-CoV-2 infection overexpress RUNX1. These data suggest that RUNX1 inhibition via repurposing of Ro24-7429 may be beneficial for PF and to battle SARS-CoV-2, by reducing expression of viral mediators and by preventing respiratory complications.


Subject(s)
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , COVID-19/metabolism , Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit/antagonists & inhibitors , Furin/metabolism , Lung/drug effects , Pulmonary Fibrosis/drug therapy , Animals , Bleomycin , Cells, Cultured , Disease Models, Animal , Epithelial Cells/drug effects , Epithelial Cells/metabolism , Female , Lung/metabolism , Lung/pathology , Male , Mice , Pulmonary Fibrosis/chemically induced , Pulmonary Fibrosis/pathology , Treatment Outcome
6.
Immunity ; 54(7): 1594-1610.e11, 2021 07 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1281436

ABSTRACT

COVID-19 can cause severe neurological symptoms, but the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms are unclear. Here, we interrogated the brain stems and olfactory bulbs in postmortem patients who had COVID-19 using imaging mass cytometry to understand the local immune response at a spatially resolved, high-dimensional, single-cell level and compared their immune map to non-COVID respiratory failure, multiple sclerosis, and control patients. We observed substantial immune activation in the central nervous system with pronounced neuropathology (astrocytosis, axonal damage, and blood-brain-barrier leakage) and detected viral antigen in ACE2-receptor-positive cells enriched in the vascular compartment. Microglial nodules and the perivascular compartment represented COVID-19-specific, microanatomic-immune niches with context-specific cellular interactions enriched for activated CD8+ T cells. Altered brain T-cell-microglial interactions were linked to clinical measures of systemic inflammation and disturbed hemostasis. This study identifies profound neuroinflammation with activation of innate and adaptive immune cells as correlates of COVID-19 neuropathology, with implications for potential therapeutic strategies.


Subject(s)
Brain/immunology , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , COVID-19/immunology , Microglia/immunology , Blood-Brain Barrier/immunology , Blood-Brain Barrier/metabolism , Blood-Brain Barrier/pathology , Brain/metabolism , Brain/pathology , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/metabolism , COVID-19/pathology , Cell Communication , Central Nervous System/immunology , Central Nervous System/metabolism , Central Nervous System/pathology , Humans , Immune Checkpoint Proteins/metabolism , Inflammation , Lymphocyte Activation , Multiple Sclerosis/immunology , Multiple Sclerosis/pathology , Olfactory Bulb/immunology , Olfactory Bulb/metabolism , Olfactory Bulb/pathology , Respiratory Insufficiency/immunology , Respiratory Insufficiency/pathology , SARS-CoV-2 , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , T-Lymphocyte Subsets/immunology , T-Lymphocyte Subsets/metabolism
7.
Int J Legal Med ; 2021 Jun 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1258202

ABSTRACT

The current pandemic with Severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 has been taking on new dynamics since the emergence of new variants last fall, some of them spreading more rapidly. Many countries currently find themselves in a race to ramp up vaccination strategies that have been initiated and a possible third wave of the pandemic from new variants, such as the Variant of Concern-202012/01 from the B.1.1.7 lineage. Until today, many investigations in death cases of Coronavirus-disease-19 have been conducted, revealing pulmonary damage to be the predominant feature of the disease. Thereby, different degrees of macroscopic and microscopic lung damage have been reported, most of them resembling an Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Far more, systemic complications of the disease such as pulmonary embolisms have been described. However, neither morphologic nor virologic findings of patients dying of the new variants have yet been reported. Here, we report on a comprehensive analysis of radiologic, morphologic, and virologic findings in a fatal case of this variant.

8.
Am J Pathol ; 191(7): 1193-1208, 2021 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1242859

ABSTRACT

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) can arise from unknown causes, as in idiopathic PF, or as a consequence of infections, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Current treatments for PF slow, but do not stop, disease progression. We report that treatment with a runt-related transcription factor 1 (RUNX1) inhibitor (Ro24-7429), previously found to be safe, although ineffective, as a Tat inhibitor in patients with HIV, robustly ameliorates lung fibrosis and inflammation in the bleomycin-induced PF mouse model. RUNX1 inhibition blunted fundamental mechanisms downstream pathologic mediators of fibrosis and inflammation, including transforming growth factor-ß1 and tumor necrosis factor-α, in cultured lung epithelial cells, fibroblasts, and vascular endothelial cells, indicating pleiotropic effects. RUNX1 inhibition also reduced the expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and FES Upstream Region (FURIN), host proteins critical for SARS-CoV-2 infection, in mice and in vitro. A subset of human lungs with SARS-CoV-2 infection overexpress RUNX1. These data suggest that RUNX1 inhibition via repurposing of Ro24-7429 may be beneficial for PF and to battle SARS-CoV-2, by reducing expression of viral mediators and by preventing respiratory complications.


Subject(s)
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , COVID-19/metabolism , Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit/antagonists & inhibitors , Furin/metabolism , Lung/drug effects , Pulmonary Fibrosis/drug therapy , Animals , Bleomycin , Cells, Cultured , Disease Models, Animal , Epithelial Cells/drug effects , Epithelial Cells/metabolism , Female , Lung/metabolism , Lung/pathology , Male , Mice , Pulmonary Fibrosis/chemically induced , Pulmonary Fibrosis/pathology , Treatment Outcome
9.
Br J Ophthalmol ; 2021 Apr 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1175143

ABSTRACT

PURPOSE: Presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in human retinal biopsies (RBs) was previously reported by us. In this consecutive study, we analysed RB and optic nerve biopsies (ONBs) in deceased patients with confirmed COVID-19 assessing viral RNA load, possible virus replication and infectivity. PATIENTS AND METHODS: In this case series, 14 eyes of 14 deceased patients with COVID-19 were enucleated during autopsy. RB and ONB were subjected to molecular detection of viral RNA, virus cultivation and immunohistochemistry. SARS-CoV-2 RNA loads were compared with RNA loads in the respective throat swabs, vitreous humour and blood samples. RESULTS: SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 7/14 RBs and in 10/13 ONBs. While virus isolation failed and immunohistochemistry of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was negative, subgenomic RNA (sgRNA) was detectable (40% RB; 60% ONB). CONCLUSION: SARS-CoV-2 RNA is detectable in RB and ONB of patients with COVID-19. Presence of sgRNA could point to a SARS-CoV-2 infection of neuronal tissue, but as virus isolation failed and immunohistochemistry of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was negative, an active infection seems unlikely.

11.
JAMA Ophthalmol ; 139(4): 383-388, 2021 04 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1039144

ABSTRACT

Importance: Current recommendations are to avoid tissue for corneal transplant from donors with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or those who were recently exposed to COVID-19 owing to the lack of knowledge about the presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in corneal tissues. Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in corneal tissue would seem to have clinical relevance for corneal transplant. Objectives: To investigate the presence of viral SARS-CoV-2 RNA in corneal discs of deceased patients with confirmed COVID-19 and assess viral genomic and subgenomic RNA load, possible infectivity, and histologic abnormalities. Design, Setting, and Participants: A case series was conducted of 11 deceased patients with COVID-19 who underwent autopsy between March 20 and May 14, 2020. Eleven corneal discs (1 corneal disc per patient) were harvested for molecular detection of viral genomic and subgenomic RNA, virus isolation, and immunohistochemistry. The SARS-CoV-2 RNA loads were compared with RNA loads in the conjunctival and throat swab samples and aqueous humor, vitreous humor, and blood samples. Main Outcomes and Measures: Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in human corneas. Results: This study comprised 11 patients (6 women [55%]; mean [SD] age, 68.5 [18.8] years). In 6 of 11 eyes (55%), SARS-CoV-2 genomic RNA was detected in the cornea; subgenomic RNA was present in 4 of these 6 eyes (67%). Infectivity or the presence of viral structural proteins could not be confirmed in any eye. However, patients whose corneal disc was positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA also had positive results for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in 4 of 6 conjunctival swab samples, 1 of 3 aqueous humor samples, 3 of 5 vitreous humor samples, and 4 of 5 blood samples. Overall, conjunctival swab samples had positive results for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in 5 of 11 cases. Postmortem SARS-CoV-2 viremia was detected in 5 of 9 patients. Conclusions and Relevance: Viral genomic and subgenomic RNA of SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the cornea of patients with COVID-19 viremia. The risk of COVID-19 infection via corneal transplant is low even in donors with SARS-CoV-2 viremia, but further research is necessary to assess the rate of SARS-CoV-2 transmission via corneal transplant.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , Cornea/virology , RNA, Viral/analysis , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Viremia/virology , Adult , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Animals , Chlorocebus aethiops , Corneal Transplantation , Female , Humans , Immunohistochemistry , Male , Middle Aged , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Vero Cells , Viral Load
12.
Lancet Neurol ; 19(11): 919-929, 2020 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-813939

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Prominent clinical symptoms of COVID-19 include CNS manifestations. However, it is unclear whether severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, gains access to the CNS and whether it causes neuropathological changes. We investigated the brain tissue of patients who died from COVID-19 for glial responses, inflammatory changes, and the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the CNS. METHODS: In this post-mortem case series, we investigated the neuropathological features in the brains of patients who died between March 13 and April 24, 2020, in Hamburg, Germany. Inclusion criteria comprised a positive test for SARS-CoV-2 by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and availability of adequate samples. We did a neuropathological workup including histological staining and immunohistochemical staining for activated astrocytes, activated microglia, and cytotoxic T lymphocytes in the olfactory bulb, basal ganglia, brainstem, and cerebellum. Additionally, we investigated the presence and localisation of SARS-CoV-2 by qRT-PCR and by immunohistochemistry in selected patients and brain regions. FINDINGS: 43 patients were included in our study. Patients died in hospitals, nursing homes, or at home, and were aged between 51 years and 94 years (median 76 years [IQR 70-86]). We detected fresh territorial ischaemic lesions in six (14%) patients. 37 (86%) patients had astrogliosis in all assessed regions. Activation of microglia and infiltration by cytotoxic T lymphocytes was most pronounced in the brainstem and cerebellum, and meningeal cytotoxic T lymphocyte infiltration was seen in 34 (79%) patients. SARS-CoV-2 could be detected in the brains of 21 (53%) of 40 examined patients, with SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins found in cranial nerves originating from the lower brainstem and in isolated cells of the brainstem. The presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the CNS was not associated with the severity of neuropathological changes. INTERPRETATION: In general, neuropathological changes in patients with COVID-19 seem to be mild, with pronounced neuroinflammatory changes in the brainstem being the most common finding. There was no evidence for CNS damage directly caused by SARS-CoV-2. The generalisability of these findings needs to be validated in future studies as the number of cases and availability of clinical data were low and no age-matched and sex-matched controls were included. FUNDING: German Research Foundation, Federal State of Hamburg, EU (eRARE), German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).


Subject(s)
Betacoronavirus/isolation & purification , Brain/pathology , Brain/virology , Coronavirus Infections/pathology , Pneumonia, Viral/pathology , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Autopsy/methods , COVID-19 , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Coronavirus Infections/genetics , Female , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Neuropathology , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Pneumonia, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2 , Transcriptome/genetics
13.
Virchows Arch ; 477(3): 335-339, 2020 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-646463

ABSTRACT

Clinical characterization of COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) is being performed worldwide to gain insights into the pathogenesis and course of the disease. Little is known regarding morphological findings, which are essential to understanding the unique features and pathomechanisms of the disease, from which one can identify possible new treatments. It has been shown that diffuse alveolar damage, signifying acute respiratory distress syndrome, is present together with atypical multinucleated cells in reported cases of the disease by Tian et al. (J Thorac Oncol 15:700-704, 2020). Macroscopic morphological findings in COVID-19 remain elusive to this day. Here, we report the case of the first German to die due to COVID-19. A detailed examination consisting of full-body computed tomography, autopsy, histology assessment, and viral assessment has been performed. The lungs of the deceased contained high concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and displayed the typical radiological signatures of COVID-19. Furthermore, a morphological pattern was found displaying hyperaemic areas interspersed by normally perfused areas affecting the whole lung. We also report a finding suggestive of micro-thrombotic events in the lung, which is compatible with the recently described coagulation changes and increased incidence of pulmonary artery embolisms seen in COVID-19 patients as reported by Wichmann et al. (Ann Intern Med, 2020). A broader study is needed to confirm these findings.


Subject(s)
Coronavirus Infections/pathology , Lung Diseases/pathology , Lung Diseases/virology , Pneumonia, Viral/pathology , Pulmonary Alveoli/pathology , Autopsy , Betacoronavirus , COVID-19 , Germany , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2 , Thrombosis/pathology , Thrombosis/virology
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