German researchers have observed post-mortem persistence in humans of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They found traces of the virus in several organs as late as five days after the death of the infected patients. The researchers published their results in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The risk of infection not demonstrated

The bodies of the dead have been suspected of the virus after a Thai doctor infected a dead body. A suspicion which became more and more concrete after the autopsy of a deceased person at his home, in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine), confirmed the presence of the Covid-19 virus five days after the death, as reported it The Parisian. However, this presence does not mean that the virus is still active in the body of the deceased patient.

The study by a team of German researchers from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf showed that the virus is present in different organs after death but does not provide evidence of an infectious risk. This is the first comprehensive analysis performed on the corpses. The researchers carried out twelve autopsies, used a scanner associated with a fine analysis, called histological, of the tissues of different organs as well as an evaluation of the viral load by the PCR technique for a group of deceased patients whose median age is 73 years.

Viral RNA in one in four patients

The researchers found SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the lungs of all patients. All these patients died from the presence of blood clots in the pulmonary blood circulation, responsible for pulmonary embolism. But the lungs are not the only organ in which researchers have found traces of the virus. Indeed, the virus has also been identified in the pharynx of nine patients as well as in the liver, heart and kidneys.

Evidence of an infectious risk resulting from the presence of the virus in the body after death has not been provided. The viraemia remained moderate with concentrations below 4 × 104 copies / ml. In addition, the study authors note that in one in four patients they found viral RNA in the brain and a vein in the leg, called the saphenous vein. More further research is needed to determine virality in patients who die in these areas and demonstrate the infectious risk of this presence.

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