Pathological findings in organs and tissues of patients with COVID-19: A systematic review

Authors: Sasha Peiris 1 2Hector Mesa 3Agnes Aysola 4Juan Manivel 5Joao Toledo 1 2Marcio Borges-Sa 6Sylvain Aldighieri 1 2Ludovic Reveiz 2 7


Background: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 that has caused more than 2.2 million deaths worldwide. We summarize the reported pathologic findings on biopsy and autopsy in patients with severe/fatal COVID-19 and documented the presence and/or effect of SARS-CoV-2 in all organs.

Methods and findings: A systematic search of the PubMed, Embase, MedRxiv, Lilacs and Epistemonikos databases from January to August 2020 for all case reports and case series that reported histopathologic findings of COVID-19 infection at autopsy or tissue biopsy was performed. 603 COVID-19 cases from 75 of 451 screened studies met inclusion criteria. The most common pathologic findings were lungs: diffuse alveolar damage (DAD) (92%) and superimposed acute bronchopneumonia (27%); liver: hepatitis (21%), heart: myocarditis (11.4%). Vasculitis was common only in skin biopsies (25%). Microthrombi were described in the placenta (57.9%), lung (38%), kidney (20%), Central Nervous System (CNS) (18%), and gastrointestinal (GI) tract (2%). Injury of endothelial cells was common in the lung (18%) and heart (4%). Hemodynamic changes such as necrosis due to hypoxia/hypoperfusion, edema and congestion were common in kidney (53%), liver (48%), CNS (31%) and GI tract (18%). SARS-CoV-2 viral particles were demonstrated within organ-specific cells in the trachea, lung, liver, large intestine, kidney, CNS either by electron microscopy, immunofluorescence, or immunohistochemistry. Additional tissues were positive by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests only. The included studies were from numerous countries, some were not peer reviewed, and some studies were performed by subspecialists, resulting in variable and inconsistent reporting or over statement of the reported findings.

Conclusions: The main pathologic findings of severe/fatal COVID-19 infection are DAD, changes related to coagulopathy and/or hemodynamic compromise. In addition, according to the observed organ damage myocarditis may be associated with sequelae.

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Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) – anatomic pathology perspective on current knowledge

Authors: Sambit K. MohantyAbhishek SatapathyMachita M. NaiduSanjay MukhopadhyayShivani SharmaLisa M. BartonEdana StrobergEric J. DuvalDinesh PradhanAlexandar Tzankov & Anil V. Parwani 



The world is currently witnessing a major devastating pandemic of Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). This disease is caused by a novel coronavirus named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). It primarily affects the respiratory tract and particularly the lungs. The virus enters the cell by attaching its spike-like surface projections to the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) expressed in various tissues. Though the majority of symptomatic patients have mild flu-like symptoms, a significant minority develop severe lung injury with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), leading to considerable morbidity and mortality. Elderly patients with previous cardiovascular comorbidities are particularly susceptible to severe clinical manifestations.


Currently, our limited knowledge of the pathologic findings is based on post-mortem biopsies, a few limited autopsies, and very few complete autopsies. From these reports, we know that the virus can be found in various organs but the most striking tissue damage involves the lungs resulting almost always in diffuse alveolar damage with interstitial edema, capillary congestion, and occasional interstitial lymphocytosis, causing hypoxia, multiorgan failure, and death. A few pathology studies have also reported intravascular microthrombi and pulmonary thromboembolism. Although the clinical presentation of this disease is fairly well characterized, knowledge of the pathologic aspects remains comparatively limited.


In this review, we discuss clinical, pathologic, and genomic features of COVID-19, review current hypotheses regarding the pathogenesis, and briefly discuss the clinical characteristics. We also compare the salient features of COVID-19 with other coronavirus-related illnesses that have posed significant public health issues in the past, including SARS and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

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COVID-19-driven endothelial damage: complement, HIF-1, and ABL2 are potential pathways of damage and targets for cure

Authors: Monia Marchetti 1

COVID-19 pandemia is a major health emergency causing hundreds of deaths worldwide. The high reported morbidity has been related to hypoxia and inflammation leading to endothelial dysfunction and aberrant coagulation in small and large vessels. This review addresses some of the pathways leading to endothelial derangement, such as complement, HIF-1α, and ABL tyrosine kinases. This review also highlights potential targets for prevention and therapy of COVID-19-related organ damage and discusses the role of marketed drugs, such as eculizumab and imatinib, as suitable candidates for clinical trials.

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