The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), involves several organs through participation of angiotensin-conversion enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors. The presence of ACE2 receptors in the liver renders this organ a potential target for the novel coronavirus.
We performed 14 complete autopsies of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. In each case we stained liver tissue sections with haematoxylin/eosin, Masson blue trichrome stain, periodic acid-Schiff (PAS), Perls, and performed cytokeratin-7 (CK7) immunochemistry.
Macroscopically, livers were pale and yellowish in 8 of 14 (57%) patients, and had a nutmeg appearance in the other 6 cases (42%). Histologically, centrolobular necrosis was observed in 12 cases (86%), and was associated with discreet to moderate lobular or portal inflammation. Steatosis was seen in 8 cases (57%), but fibrosis was rare. Cholestasis and discrete bile duct proliferation was observed in 5 cases (36%).
The main histological changes can be explained by the hypoxic status as a result of severe hypoxemic pneumonia leading to death. Drug toxicity may also play a role in certain cases. Other histological changes may be explained by previous hepatic conditions or underlying hepatic diseases. We concluded that COVID-19 infection was not associated with a specific histopathological pattern of the liver.
© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.