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Nat Commun ; 14(1): 791, 2023 02 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2243508


Prolonged lung pathology has been associated with COVID-19, yet the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind this chronic inflammatory disease are poorly understood. In this study, we combine advanced imaging and spatial transcriptomics to shed light on the local immune response in severe COVID-19. We show that activated adventitial niches are crucial microenvironments contributing to the orchestration of prolonged lung immunopathology. Up-regulation of the chemokines CCL21 and CCL18 associates to endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition and tissue fibrosis within these niches. CCL21 over-expression additionally links to the local accumulation of T cells expressing the cognate receptor CCR7. These T cells are imprinted with an exhausted phenotype and form lymphoid aggregates that can organize in ectopic lymphoid structures. Our work proposes immune-stromal interaction mechanisms promoting a self-sustained and non-resolving local immune response that extends beyond active viral infection and perpetuates tissue remodeling.

COVID-19 , Chemokine CCL21 , Chemokines, CC , Humans , COVID-19/immunology , Fibrosis , Lung , T-Lymphocytes/immunology
EBioMedicine ; 83: 104193, 2022 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1966506


BACKGROUND: Autopsy studies have provided valuable insights into the pathophysiology of COVID-19. Controversies remain about whether the clinical presentation is due to direct organ damage by SARS-CoV-2 or secondary effects, such as overshooting immune response. SARS-CoV-2 detection in tissues by RT-qPCR and immunohistochemistry (IHC) or electron microscopy (EM) can help answer these questions, but a comprehensive evaluation of these applications is missing. METHODS: We assessed publications using IHC and EM for SARS-CoV-2 detection in autopsy tissues. We systematically evaluated commercially available antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 proteins in cultured cell lines and COVID-19 autopsy tissues. In a multicentre study, we evaluated specificity, reproducibility, and inter-observer variability of SARS-CoV-2 IHC. We correlated RT-qPCR viral tissue loads with semiquantitative IHC scoring. We used qualitative and quantitative EM analyses to refine criteria for ultrastructural identification of SARS-CoV-2. FINDINGS: Publications show high variability in detection and interpretation of SARS-CoV-2 abundance in autopsy tissues by IHC or EM. We show that IHC using antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid yields the highest sensitivity and specificity. We found a positive correlation between presence of viral proteins by IHC and RT-qPCR-determined SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA load (N= 35; r=-0.83, p-value <0.0001). For EM, we refined criteria for virus identification and provide recommendations for optimized sampling and analysis. 135 of 144 publications misinterpret cellular structures as virus using EM or show only insufficient data. We provide publicly accessible digitized EM sections as a reference and for training purposes. INTERPRETATION: Since detection of SARS-CoV-2 in human autopsy tissues by IHC and EM is difficult and frequently incorrect, we propose criteria for a re-evaluation of available data and guidance for further investigations of direct organ effects by SARS-CoV-2. FUNDING: German Federal Ministry of Health, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Berlin University Alliance, German Research Foundation, German Center for Infectious Research.

COVID-19 , Autopsy , Humans , RNA, Viral/analysis , Reproducibility of Results , SARS-CoV-2 , Viral Proteins