Cleve Clin J Med. 2020 Sep 23. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.87a.ccc063. Online ahead of print.
A growing number of international postmortem studies identify acute and organizing diffuse alveolar damage (DAD) as the main pathologic feature of lung injury in patients with COVID-19. Other forms of acute lung injury, including organizing pneumonia, and acute fibrinous and organizing pneumonia are seen. Acute neutrophilic infiltrates have been observed, most frequently as the manifestation of a superimposed bacterial pneumonia. SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in type I and type II pneumocytes and bronchial epithelial cells using electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization, and likewise, viral transcripts were localized with RNA probes in pneumocytes. However, the presence of true viral cytopathic effect seen with light microscopy remains to be defined. Interestingly, vascular changes are frequently observed in association with DAD, which include severe endothelial injury/endothelialitis, hemorrhage, and thrombotic and microangiopathic vasculopathy. Since similar vascular changes also occur in cases of DAD independent of the etiology, whether the vascular pathology in COVID lungs has unique features and represents a separate pathologic process is under investigation.