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1.
Frontiers in neurology ; 13, 2022.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-1918797

ABSTRACT

The severe acute respiratory syndrome-corona virus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of human coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since its identification in late 2019 SARS-CoV-2 has spread rapidly around the world creating a global pandemic. Although considered mainly a respiratory disease, COVID-19 also encompasses a variety of neuropsychiatric symptoms. How infection with SARS-CoV-2 leads to brain damage has remained largely elusive so far. In particular, it has remained unclear, whether signs of immune cell and / or innate immune and reactive astrogliosis are due to direct effects of the virus or may be an expression of a non-specific reaction of the brain to a severe life-threatening disease with a considerable proportion of patients requiring intensive care and invasive ventilation activation. Therefore, we designed a case-control-study of ten patients who died of COVID-19 and ten age-matched non-COVID-19-controls to quantitatively assess microglial and astroglial response. To minimize possible effects of severe systemic inflammation and / or invasive therapeutic measures we included only patients without any clinical or pathomorphological indication of sepsis and who had not been subjected to invasive intensive care treatment. Our results show a significantly higher degree of microglia activation in younger COVID-19 patients, while the difference was less and not significant for older COVID-19 patients. The difference in the degree of reactive gliosis increased with age but was not influenced by COVID-19. These preliminary data warrants further investigation of larger patient cohorts using additional immunohistochemical markers for different microglial phenotypes.

2.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-310513

ABSTRACT

Background: 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. Methods: 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. Findings: 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. Interpretation 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.

3.
Virchows Arch ; 480(3): 519-528, 2022 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1611405

ABSTRACT

Confronted with an emerging infectious disease at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical community faced concerns regarding the safety of autopsies on those who died of the disease. This attitude has changed, and autopsies are now recognized as indispensable tools for understanding COVID-19, but the true risk of infection to autopsy staff is nevertheless still debated. To clarify the rate of SARS-CoV-2 contamination in personal protective equipment (PPE), swabs were taken at nine points in the PPE of one physician and one assistant after each of 11 full autopsies performed at four centers. Swabs were also obtained from three minimally invasive autopsies (MIAs) conducted at a fifth center. Lung/bronchus swabs of the deceased served as positive controls, and SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected by real-time RT-PCR. In 9 of 11 full autopsies, PPE samples tested RNA positive through PCR, accounting for 41 of the 198 PPE samples taken (21%). The main contaminated items of the PPE were gloves (64% positive), aprons (50% positive), and the tops of shoes (36% positive) while the fronts of safety goggles, for example, were positive in only 4.5% of the samples, and all the face masks were negative. In MIAs, viral RNA was observed in one sample from a glove but not in other swabs. Infectious virus isolation in cell culture was performed on RNA-positive swabs from the full autopsies. Of all the RNA-positive PPE samples, 21% of the glove samples, taken in 3 of 11 full autopsies, tested positive for infectious virus. In conclusion, PPE was contaminated with viral RNA in 82% of autopsies. In 27% of autopsies, PPE was found to be contaminated even with infectious virus, representing a potential risk of infection to autopsy staff. Adequate PPE and hygiene measures, including appropriate waste deposition, are therefore essential to ensure a safe work environment.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Personal Protective Equipment , Autopsy , COVID-19/prevention & control , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , RNA, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2
4.
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.
Int J Legal Med ; 136(1): 189-192, 2022 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1401026

ABSTRACT

This case report highlights details of a case of critical acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) with B1.1.7 variant in a 4-year-old girl who died due to pneumonia and pulmonary hemorrhage. The girl was referred to our University ECMO Center from another University hospital for veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO). In the clinical course, superinfection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa was detected. Virological evidence of herpes simplex sepsis was also obtained in blood samples on her day of death. Transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in lung tissue. Postmortem computed tomography showed pulmonary hemorrhage with inhomogeneous density values in both lungs. Lung tissue showed no ventilated areas. Autopsy revealed a massively congested lung with evidence of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and pneumonia with multiple abscesses. Histopathology showed a mixture of diffuse alveolar injury with hyaline membranes, massive hemorrhage, and bronchopneumonia with multiple granulocytic abscesses. Cardiac examination revealed pericarditis. Suspicion of myocarditis or myocardial infarction could not be confirmed microscopically. To our knowledge, this is the first autopsy-based case report of the death of a previously healthy child due to the new variant B 1.1.7 in Germany.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Respiratory Distress Syndrome/virology , Abscess/pathology , Abscess/virology , COVID-19/diagnosis , Child, Preschool , Fatal Outcome , Female , Germany , Humans , Lung/diagnostic imaging , Lung/pathology , SARS-CoV-2
6.
Int J Legal Med ; 134(5): 1977, 2020 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1384415

ABSTRACT

The affiliation of the author Martin Aepfelbacher was incorrectly assigned in the manuscript. Martin Aepfelbacher is affiliated to the Institute of Microbiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany, instead.

7.
Forensic Sci Med Pathol ; 17(3): 411-418, 2021 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1252221

ABSTRACT

The body of a deceased with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is considered infectious. In this study, we present the results of infectivity testing of the body and testing of mortuary staff for SARS-CoV-2. We performed real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) for SARS-CoV-2 on 33 decedents with ante mortem confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Swabs of the body surface from five different body regions and from the body bag or coffin were examined. A subset of the swabs was brought into cell culture. In addition, screening of 25 Institute of Legal Medicine (ILM) personnel for ongoing or past SARS-CoV-2 infection was performed at two different time points during the pandemic. Swabs from all locations of the body surface and the body environment were negative in cases of negative post mortem nasopharyngeal testing (n=9). When the post mortem nasopharyngeal swab tested positive (n=24), between 0 and 5 of the body surface swabs were also positive, primarily the perioral region. In six of the cases, the body bag also yielded a positive result. The longest postmortem interval with positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR at the body surface was nine days. In no case viable SARS-CoV-2 was found on the skin of the bodies or the body bags. One employee (autopsy technician) had possible occupational infection with SARS-CoV-2; all other employees were tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antibody twice. Our data indicate that with adequate management of general safety precautions, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through autopsies and handling of bodies is unlikely.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Humans , Nasopharynx , Pandemics , RNA, Viral
8.
EBioMedicine ; 67: 103382, 2021 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1230443

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Coagulopathy and inflammation are hallmarks of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and are associated with increased mortality. Clinical and experimental data have revealed a role for neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in COVID-19 disease. The mechanisms that drive thrombo-inflammation in COVID-19 are poorly understood. METHODS: We performed proteomic analysis and immunostaining of postmortem lung tissues from COVID-19 patients and patients with other lung pathologies. We further compared coagulation factor XII (FXII) and DNase activities in plasma samples from COVID-19 patients and healthy control donors and determined NET-induced FXII activation using a chromogenic substrate assay. FINDINGS: FXII expression and activity were increased in the lung parenchyma, within the pulmonary vasculature and in fibrin-rich alveolar spaces of postmortem lung tissues from COVID-19 patients. In agreement with this, plasmaaac acafajföeFXII activation (FXIIa) was increased in samples from COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, FXIIa colocalized with NETs in COVID-19 lung tissue indicating that NETs accumulation leads to FXII contact activation in COVID-19. We further showed that an accumulation of NETs is partially due to impaired NET clearance by extracellular DNases as DNase substitution improved NET dissolution and reduced FXII activation in vitro. INTERPRETATION: Collectively, our study supports that the NET/FXII axis contributes to the pathogenic chain of procoagulant and proinflammatory responses in COVID-19. Targeting both NETs and FXIIa may offer a potential novel therapeutic strategy. FUNDING: This study was supported by the European Union (840189), the Werner Otto Medical Foundation Hamburg (8/95) and the German Research Foundation (FR4239/1-1, A11/SFB877, B08/SFB841 and P06/KFO306).


Subject(s)
COVID-19/metabolism , Extracellular Traps/metabolism , Factor XII/metabolism , Autopsy , Case-Control Studies , Deoxyribonucleases/blood , Deoxyribonucleases/metabolism , Humans , Lung/metabolism , Neutrophil Activation , Pneumonia , Proteomics
9.
Leg Med (Tokyo) ; 51: 101895, 2021 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1188871

ABSTRACT

Since 27th December 2020, a mRNA vaccine from BioNTech / Pfizer (Comirnaty®) has been used across Germany. As of 12th March 2021, 286 fatalities of vaccinated German individuals were registered at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute with time intervals after vaccination between one hour to 40 days. From our catchment area in northern Germany, we have so far become aware of 22 deaths in connection with vaccination in a 5 week period (range: 0-28 days after vaccination). Three death cases after vaccination with Comirnaty®, which were autopsied at the Institute of Legal Medicine Hamburg, are presented in more detail. All three deceased had severe cardiovascular diseases, among other comorbidities, and died in the context of these pre-existing conditions, while one case developed a COVID-19 pneumonia as cause of death. Taking into account the results of the postmortem examination a causal relation between the vaccination and the death was not established in any case. If there are indications of an allergic reaction, histological and postmortem laboratory examinations should be performed subsequent to the autopsy (tryptase, total IgE, CRP, interleukin-6, complement activity C3/C5).


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Vaccines , Frail Elderly , Multimorbidity , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Autopsy , Cause of Death , Fatal Outcome , Female , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Male , Myocardial Infarction/diagnosis , Pneumonia/diagnosis , Pulmonary Embolism/diagnosis , Vaccines, Synthetic
10.
Sci Immunol ; 6(56)2021 02 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1099742

ABSTRACT

Hyperinflammation contributes to lung injury and subsequent acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with high mortality in patients with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To understand the underlying mechanisms involved in lung pathology, we investigated the role of the lung-specific immune response. We profiled immune cells in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and blood collected from COVID-19 patients with severe disease and bacterial pneumonia patients not associated with viral infection. By tracking T cell clones across tissues, we identified clonally expanded tissue-resident memory-like Th17 cells (Trm17 cells) in the lungs even after viral clearance. These Trm17 cells were characterized by a a potentially pathogenic cytokine expression profile of IL17A and CSF2 (GM-CSF). Interactome analysis suggests that Trm17 cells can interact with lung macrophages and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, which have been associated with disease severity and lung damage. High IL-17A and GM-CSF protein levels in the serum of COVID-19 patients were associated with a more severe clinical course. Collectively, our study suggests that pulmonary Trm17 cells are one potential orchestrator of the hyperinflammation in severe COVID-19.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/immunology , Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor/metabolism , Immunologic Memory , Lung/immunology , Th17 Cells/metabolism , Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid/cytology , Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid/immunology , COVID-19/complications , COVID-19/pathology , Clone Cells , Humans , Inflammation/etiology , Inflammation/immunology , Lung/pathology , Myeloid Cells , Pneumonia, Bacterial/immunology , Th17 Cells/immunology
11.
Ann Intern Med ; 173(4): 268-277, 2020 08 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-782419

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The new coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has caused more than 210 000 deaths worldwide. However, little is known about the causes of death and the virus's pathologic features. OBJECTIVE: To validate and compare clinical findings with data from medical autopsy, virtual autopsy, and virologic tests. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study. SETTING: Autopsies performed at a single academic medical center, as mandated by the German federal state of Hamburg for patients dying with a polymerase chain reaction-confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. PATIENTS: The first 12 consecutive COVID-19-positive deaths. MEASUREMENTS: Complete autopsy, including postmortem computed tomography and histopathologic and virologic analysis, was performed. Clinical data and medical course were evaluated. RESULTS: Median patient age was 73 years (range, 52 to 87 years), 75% of patients were male, and death occurred in the hospital (n = 10) or outpatient sector (n = 2). Coronary heart disease and asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the most common comorbid conditions (50% and 25%, respectively). Autopsy revealed deep venous thrombosis in 7 of 12 patients (58%) in whom venous thromboembolism was not suspected before death; pulmonary embolism was the direct cause of death in 4 patients. Postmortem computed tomography revealed reticular infiltration of the lungs with severe bilateral, dense consolidation, whereas histomorphologically diffuse alveolar damage was seen in 8 patients. In all patients, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in the lung at high concentrations; viremia in 6 of 10 and 5 of 12 patients demonstrated high viral RNA titers in the liver, kidney, or heart. LIMITATION: Limited sample size. CONCLUSION: The high incidence of thromboembolic events suggests an important role of COVID-19-induced coagulopathy. Further studies are needed to investigate the molecular mechanism and overall clinical incidence of COVID-19-related death, as well as possible therapeutic interventions to reduce it. PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.


Subject(s)
Autopsy/methods , Coronavirus Infections/mortality , Pneumonia, Viral/mortality , Pulmonary Embolism/mortality , Venous Thromboembolism/mortality , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Betacoronavirus , COVID-19 , Cause of Death , Female , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , Prospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2 , Tomography, X-Ray Computed
12.
Leg Med (Tokyo) ; 47: 101769, 2020 Nov.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-671649

ABSTRACT

Autopsies are an essential tool for understanding new diseases. Against this background, it is incomprehensible why there is great reluctance worldwide to perform autopsies on COVID-19 deceased patients. The article provides an overview of the status of the autopsy series published worldwide and shows the path taken by the city of Hamburg in Germany, where autopsies are ordered by the health authorities in the interests of disease control. The risk of infection posed by SARS-CoV-2-positive deceased persons may be overestimated. The scientific benefit that can be drawn from experience with autopsies and further examination of tissue samples is immeasurable.


Subject(s)
Autopsy , Coronavirus Infections/mortality , Infection Control/methods , Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/mortality , Betacoronavirus , COVID-19 , Humans , Pandemics , Pathology Department, Hospital , SARS-CoV-2
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
14.
Int J Legal Med ; 134(4): 1275-1284, 2020 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-526787

ABSTRACT

Autopsies of deceased with a confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection can provide important insights into the novel disease and its course. Furthermore, autopsies are essential for the correct statistical recording of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths. In the northern German Federal State of Hamburg, all deaths of Hamburg citizens with ante- or postmortem PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection have been autopsied since the outbreak of the pandemic in Germany. Our evaluation provides a systematic overview of the first 80 consecutive full autopsies. A proposal for the categorisation of deaths with SARS-CoV-2 infection is presented (category 1: definite COVID-19 death; category 2: probable COVID-19 death; category 3: possible COVID-19 death with an equal alternative cause of death; category 4: SARS-CoV-2 detection with cause of death not associated to COVID-19). In six cases, SARS-CoV-2 infection was diagnosed postmortem by a positive PCR test in a nasopharyngeal or lung tissue swab. In the other 74 cases, SARS-CoV-2 infection had already been known antemortem. The deceased were aged between 52 and 96 years (average 79.2 years, median 82.4 years). In the study cohort, 34 deceased were female (38%) and 46 male (62%). Overall, 38% of the deceased were overweight or obese. All deceased, except for two women, in whom no significant pre-existing conditions were found autoptically, had relevant comorbidities (in descending order of frequency): (1) diseases of the cardiovascular system, (2) lung diseases, (3) central nervous system diseases, (4) kidney diseases, and (5) diabetes mellitus. A total of 76 cases (95%) were classified as COVID-19 deaths, corresponding to categories 1-3. Four deaths (5%) were defined as non-COVID-19 deaths with virus-independent causes of death. In eight cases, pneumonia was combined with a fulminant pulmonary artery embolism. Peripheral pulmonary artery embolisms were found in nine other cases. Overall, deep vein thrombosis has been found in 40% of the cases. This study provides the largest overview of autopsies of SARS-CoV-2-infected patients presented so far.


Subject(s)
Betacoronavirus , Coronavirus Infections/mortality , Coronavirus Infections/pathology , Lung/pathology , Pneumonia, Viral/mortality , Pneumonia, Viral/pathology , Age Distribution , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Alveolar Epithelial Cells/pathology , Autopsy , Betacoronavirus/genetics , Betacoronavirus/isolation & purification , COVID-19 , Comorbidity , Cross Infection/mortality , Exudates and Transudates , Female , Fibroblasts/pathology , Fibrosis/pathology , Germany/epidemiology , Giant Cells/pathology , Humans , Male , Megakaryocytes/pathology , Middle Aged , Nursing Homes/statistics & numerical data , Organ Size , Overweight/epidemiology , Pandemics , Polymerase Chain Reaction , Pulmonary Embolism/pathology , Residential Facilities/statistics & numerical data , SARS-CoV-2 , Sex Distribution , Travel-Related Illness , Venous Thrombosis/pathology
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