Dr Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, director of pulmonary pathology at the Cleveland Clinic, observed two autopsies, including one of a 77-year-old Oklahoma man. Dr Mukhopadhyay found that the inside of the lungs was covered in a thick, slime-textured coating, which caused the breathing difficulties.
He said he hopes the research gives doctors an insight into what symptoms the virus causes and how they can treat them with available medicine.
Dr Mukhopadhyay was asked to review the results by the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
He said: “In the last three days I’ve had perhaps two dozen requests from all over the world, all over the world literally from Europe, from Japan, from all over the United States.
“What we’re looking for in these autopsies is some glimmer of hope of some kind of finding which could be reversible.”
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology.
Dr Mukhopadhyay told WOIO that this is the first time autopsy findings are published in English.
One of the autopsies was practiced on a 77-year-old obese man with a history of hypertension.
The patient showed symptoms for six days – including fever and chills – but did not see a doctor about them.
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He was only tested for the virus when he died.
Dr Mukhodpadhyay told WOIO: “Then suddenly became weak and short of breath and then by the time he got to the hospital he had already had a cardiac arrest so he never made it to an ICU or ventilator treatment.
“So he died before that so we got to see what happens in the lungs of a patient who dies from COVID without being on a ventilator or getting any treatment.”
The thick, paint-like coating had caused airway inflammation and damage to the alveoli – the elastic air sacs in the lungs – which caused him to have breathing difficulties.
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“It’s actually proof that the virus itself is causing the damage,” as opposed to a ventilator Dr Mukhopadhyay told Cleveland.com.
The autopsy of the 42-year-old obese man showed that, although he was diagnosed with coronavirus, he didn’t die from it.
He died from a bacterial pneumonia which he was prone to contracting due to a pre-existing condition he had.
The 42-year-old patient did not present the thick coating inside his lungs.
“Therefore, this patient likely died with COVID-19, not from COVID-19,” the study states.
“These cases illustrate the challenges that pathologists and the medical community at large will face in determining the cause of death in (deceased people) who test positive.”
Dr Mukhodpadhyay said he hopes that more autopsies will help shine a light on the more precise treatment for current Covid-19 patients.
“Well they are looking into insights into what is potentially going on in the lungs that is reversible,” he told WOIO.
“Is there anything there that can be treated? Is there anything there that you can use a drug to target it?”
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