Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / China / Latest

Virus mainly attacks lungs, autopsy on 85 year old shows

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-29 07:41
Share - WeChat
Medical staff work in the isolation ward at Wuhan No.1 Hospital in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, Feb 22, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

An autopsy on an 85-year-old patient who died of novel coronavirus pneumonia reveals that the virus mainly attacks the lungs and there is not enough evidence to show that the infection can damage other organs.

The first report of its kind was published in a preview version of the Journal of Forensic Medicine on Friday. It said the novel coronavirus triggers inflammatory symptoms in the respiratory tracts and air sacs of the lungs.

Its damage to lung tissue in the form of pulmonary fibrosis is less severe than SARS, but the symptoms of swelling in the lungs are more pronounced, the report said. The patient died within 15 days after being diagnosed, and the short sick period might explain why pulmonary fibrosis seems to be less serious.

In general, the scarring of the lung tissues is particularly noticeable and viscous secretions can be found seeping through the air sacs. This may be the reason why patients in severe and critical conditions reported feelings of drowning.

The report on the autopsy said that since the patient was old and suffered from other underlying health problems, results on the disease's damage to the heart, kidneys, brain, spleen and digestive tract are inconclusive and require further investigation.

So far, Chinese scientists from Wuhan and Shanghai have dissected 11 bodies aged 50 to mid-80s, three of which had been analyzed and the results would be published in due time, local media reported.

Liu Liang, the forensic doctor responsible for the autopsy, said in an interview this week that the autopsy will help medical professionals on the front line improve their treatment and help evaluate the efficacy of test drugs.

The revelation about the lung swelling means doctors must try to reduce the lung fluid and keep the respiratory tract clean before administrating oxygen, or else the gas will push the fluid deeper into the lungs and block the airways, he said.

The new report also notes that a small amount of secretion from swelling in the lungs might ooze into the chest cavity and infect the heart. This may explain why patients with cardiovascular diseases could experience worse conditions, but such a link would need to be confirmed through more research.

Chinese scientists have claimed in non-peer reviewed papers that the virus could attack the kidney, liver, heart and the nervous system. Scientists have also reported finding the virus in fecal matter, urine and eye fluids, signaling the virus may infect related systems.

Zhu Duming, the director of intensive care units from Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai, said in a public seminar that "many people are now terrified of the novel coronavirus and some even believe it is an incurable disease".

"But in fact, only a small minority of infected patients will ever become critically ill," he said. Patients who need intensive treatments typically include the elderly, and those suffering from serious health issues such as diabetes, renal insufficiency, cardiovascular diseases and immunity deficiency diseases, he said.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349