Gina – Since the start of the epidemic, scientists around the world have been trying to decipher the various features of the SARS-Cove-2 virus. There are still no answers to many questions. For example, it is unclear where the virus travels in the body and where it causes the most damage.
Jena’s research team was able to gain important new knowledge and develop a kind of Covid-19 atlas of tissue damage. Scientists recorded the viral load in a large number of organs and linked the spread of the virus to existing tissue damage.
For the study, the bodies of 11 patients who died from Covid-19 were examined. The study involved virologists, microbiologists, forensic pathologists and intensive care physicians from the University of Jena Hospital. The results have been published in the online journal eLife Chest.
Tissue damage in the lungs only
As expected, the scientists found the viral RNA mainly in the lungs, and the tissue there was also badly affected. “Interestingly, we also detected SARS-CoV-2 in various other organs such as the digestive system, kidneys, or heart vessels. But the virus only attacked lung tissue,” said pathologist and study co-author Daniel Wichiber.
In order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the disease in terms of microbiology and histology in the case of extremely severe course, scientists performed an autopsy on the patient only a few hours after the appearance of death. In this way, the lysis processes in tissues and virus RNA can be minimized. For each patient, they documented Sars-CoV-2 viral load and markers of inflammation and tissue damage in over 60 samples in different organs. Using electron microscopy images, they were able to detect healthy virus particles in lung tissue.
The results are important for drug development
With their study, which for the first time comprehensively determines the viral load and tissue damage in Covid-19, Jena researchers confirm the systemic character of the disease. Clinical observations, especially experience with Post-Covid Syndrome, Indicates that Covid-19 is a disease that affects the whole body, “says microbiologist and study author Stephanie Dienhardt Emer. The fact that only lung tissue is damaged, but the virus spreads throughout the body supports the assumption that our immune system cannot. “It reacts appropriately to the presence of the virus in the blood. This is the real problem with Covid-19.”
The results of a scientific investigation could now help develop more effective drugs against Covid-19 that target the areas where the emerging coronavirus is most likely to accumulate, according to the study. This allows the infection to be treated more specifically and thus more effectively and, in the best cases, to prevent severe courses.