: 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.

Post-Mortem Detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Long-Buried Lung Samples

Esposito, Massimiliano;
2021-01-01

Abstract

: 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.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11387/168105
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact