Liver injury due to COVID-19 is being increasingly recognized. Abnormal liver chemistry tests of varying severities occur in a majority of patients. However, there is a dearth of accompanying liver histologic studies in these patients.
The current report details the clinical courses of two patients having severe COVID-19 hepatitis. Liver biopsies were analyzed under light microscopy, portions of liver tissue were hybridized with a target probe to the SARS-CoV-2 S gene, and small sections from formalin-fixed paraffin embedded liver tissue were processed for electron microscopy.
The liver histology of both cases showed a mixed inflammatory infiltrate with prominent bile duct damage, endotheliitis and many apoptotic bodies. In-situ hybridization and electron microscopy suggest the intrahepatic presence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), the findings of which may indicate the possibility of direct cell injury.
Based on the abundant apoptosis and severe cholangiocyte injury, these histopathological changes suggest a direct cytopathic injury. Furthermore, some of the histopathological changes may resemble acute cellular rejection occurring after liver transplantation. These two cases demonstrate that severe COVID-19 hepatitis can occur even in the absence of significant involvement of other organs.

Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.