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Diagnostics (Basel) ; 11(7)2021 Jun 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1288828


The Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused an unexpected death toll worldwide. Even though several guidelines for the management of infectious corpses have been proposed, the limited number of post-mortem analyses during the pandemic has led to inaccuracies in the counting of COVID-19 deaths and contributed to a lack of important information about the pathophysiology of the SARS-CoV-2 infection. Due to the impossibility of carrying out autopsies on all corpses, the scientific community has raised the question of whether confirmatory analyses could be performed on exhumed bodies after a long period of burial to assess the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Post-mortem lung samples were collected from 16 patients who died from COVID-19 infection and were buried for a long period of time. A custom RNA extraction protocol was developed to enhance extraction of viral RNA from degraded samples and highly sensitive molecular methods, including RT-qPCR and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR), were used to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The custom extraction protocol developed allowed us to extract total RNA effectively from all lung samples collected. SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA was effectively detected in all samples by both RT-qPCR and ddPCR, regardless of the length of burial. ddPCR results confirmed the persistence of the virus in this anatomical niche and revealed high viral loads in some lung samples, suggesting active infection at the time of death. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in the lung even after a long post-mortem interval (up to 78 days). The extraction protocol herein described, and the highly sensitive molecular analyses performed, could represent the standard procedures for SARS-CoV-2 detection in degraded lung specimens. Finally, the innovative results obtained encourage post-mortem confirmatory analyses even after a long post-mortem interval.

Diagnostics (Basel) ; 11(3)2021 Mar 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1160481


To date, there is poor evidence on the transmission of infection in individuals handling the bodies of deceased persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 and in particular, during autopsies. The aim of this study was to demonstrate that when appropriate strategies are adopted autopsy is a safe procedure with a minimal infection risk for all subjects involved (pathologists, technical personnel, and others) when proper strategies are adopted. We performed 16 autopsies on cadavers of persons who had died with confirmed COVID-19 with different post-mortem intervals (PMI). To confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, for each autopsy, 2 swabs were sampled from lungs, while to evaluate environmental contamination, 11 swabs were taken at three different times: T0 (before autopsy), T1 (at the end of the autopsy, without removing the corpse), and T2 (after cleaning and disinfecting the autopsy room). Specifically, 2 swabs were sampled on face shields used by each pathologist, and 4 swabs were collected on the autopsy table; 4 swabs were also collected from walls and 1 from floor. Lung swabs confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in all cases. Environmental swabs, collected at T0 and T2 were all negative, while swabs sampled at T1 were shown to be positive. Interestingly, no association was shown between PMI length and environmental contamination. Infection control strategies for safe management of clinical forensic autopsies of bodies with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are also described.

Forensic Sci Int ; 319: 110653, 2021 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1023567


Post-mortem swabs for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA detection have been recommended by several Scientific Committees and Institutions as a standard procedure for post-mortem assessment of potential Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) related deaths. To date there is no data about the SARS-CoV-2 RNA detectability period in human bodies after death. The present case documents the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the upper respiratory tract 35-days after death. Post-mortem swabs could be used as a valuable tool in preventive evaluation of the risks-benefits ratio associated with autopsy execution. SARS-CoV-2 RNA post-mortem detection could have a key diagnostic role in deaths lacking medical assistance, unattended deaths, and patients with multiple comorbidities. Based on the present report, staged post-mortem swabs should be performed even after a long post-mortem interval.

Cadaver , Nasal Cavity/virology , Oropharynx/virology , RNA, Viral/isolation & purification , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction , Specimen Handling , Time Factors