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J Endocrinol Invest ; 45(5): 1021-1029, 2022 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1783035


OBJECTIVE: Obesity is a recognized risk factor for the progression to severe forms of COVID-19, yet the mechanisms of the association are unclear. METHODS: Subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue specimens of subjects deceased from COVID-19 (n = 23) were compared to those of controls dying abruptly from causes other than infectious (accidental trauma, sudden cardiac death). Alterations of lung parenchyma consistent with moderate to severe disease were detected in all COVID-19 cases, not in controls. Investigations included: histopathologic features, detection of virus antigens and genome, characterization of infiltrating leukocytes, transcription levels of immune-related genes. RESULTS: By RT-PCR, the SARS-CoV-2 genome was detected in the adipose tissue of 13/23 (56%) cases of the COVID-19 cohort. The virus nucleocapsid antigen was detected in the cytoplasm of 1-5% adipocytes in 12/12 COVID-19 cases that were virus-positive by PCR in the adipose tissue (one case could not be assessed due insufficient tissue). The adipose tissue of COVID-19 cases showed leukocyte infiltrates and upregulation of the interferon-alpha pathway. After adjusting for age and sex, the activation score of IFN-alpha was directly related with transcription levels of the ACE2 gene, a key entry factor of SARS-CoV-2. CONCLUSIONS: In lethal COVID-19 cases, the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid antigen has been detected in a sizeable proportion of adipocytes, showing that the virus may directly infect the parenchymal cells of subcutaneous fat. Infection appears to activate the IFN alpha pathway and to attract infiltrating leukocytes. Due to the huge numbers of adipocytes in adults, the adipose tissue represents a significant reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 and an important source of inflammatory mediators.

Adipocytes , Adipose Tissue , COVID-19 , Interferon-alpha , SARS-CoV-2 , Adipocytes/immunology , Adipose Tissue/immunology , Adult , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/virology , Humans , Interferon-alpha/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification
J Endocrinol Invest ; 45(1): 209-214, 2022 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1287473


PURPOSE: The SARS-CoV-2 genome has been detected in a variety of human samples including blood, urine, semen, and faeces. However, evidence of virus presence in tissues other than lung are limited. METHODS: We investigated whether SARS-CoV-2 could be detected in 50 autoptic specimens of endocrine organs from 29 patients who died of COVID-19. RESULTS: The virus was detected in 25 specimens including ten abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue samples (62%), six testes (67%), and nine thyroid (36%) samples. The analysis of multiple endocrine organ samples obtained from the same patients showed that, in virus-positive cases, the viral genome was consistently detected in all but two matched specimens. CONCLUSION: Our findings show that the virus spread into endocrine organs is a common event in severe cases. Further studies should assess the rate of the phenomenon in clinically mild cases. The potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on endocrine functions should be taken into consideration.

COVID-19/virology , Endocrine Glands/virology , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Abdominal Fat/virology , Adult , Autopsy , COVID-19/epidemiology , Comorbidity , Female , Humans , Lung/virology , Male , Middle Aged , RNA, Viral/analysis , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Subcutaneous Fat/virology , Testis/virology , Thyroid Gland/virology