A Doctor Breaks Down What 188 Autopsies Reveal About COVID

Melissa Matthews
·2 mins read
Photo credit: Dr. Mike Hansen
Photo credit: Dr. Mike Hansen

From Men's Health

Mike Hansen M.D. is a pulmonologist who has explained the complicated novel coronavirus to viewers throughout the pandemic. Previously, he explored the link between blood type and risk of infection. In a new post, Dr. Hansen explains why autopsies of COVID-19 patients are vital to learning about the disease.

Dr. Hansen reviews autopsies from 188 COVID-19 patients published in 8 studies. Overall, the autopsies support previous findings that males, older adults, and obese people are more likely to experience worse outcomes, including severe lung damage, he says.

The reports also reveal that SARS-CoV-2 enters our bodies by binding to ACE2 receptors on the type II alveolar cells in the lung. ACE2 receptors are also found on capillaries, which likely explains why extremely sick people had traces of the virus on other organs including the brain, kidneys, heart, and liver.

Additionally, autopsies reveal that some COVID patients died because of blood clots found in their lungs. This results from inflammation and injury caused after the virus attaches to ACE2 receptors on the endothelium, or lining of the capillaries.

Of course, there's a lot researchers don't know about how COVID-19 attacks the body. Although some patients show signs of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, that likely wasn't their cause of death, says Dr. Hansen.

"Most, if not all, COVID autopsies show that they [patients] died as a result of lung pathology," he says. "What we can say for sure right now is that when people die of COVID it's a result of damage in the lungs and blood clots in the lungs." Dr. Hansen goes onto explain how COVID affects neurological function—and why some patients may feel confused.

Scientists are just beginning to learn the effects of COVID, and further studies will demystify the disease.

However, Dr. Hansen suggests that people with preexisting endothelial dysfunction may be more susceptible to getting severely sick. And as he notes, endothelial dysfunction is more often associated with males, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. That's why he says it's important to exercise, eat a well-balanced diet, and refrain from smoking.

"All of these were important before COVID and even more-so now," he says.

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