Objective: To explore the distribution of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in SARS autopsy tissues at the molecular level.
Methods: In situ hybridization was used to detect the expression and location of SARS-CoV RNA polymerase gene in autopsy tissues from SARS-Cov-infected subjects, including the lung, spleen, lymph nodes, pituitary, pancreas, parathyroid, adrenal glands, gastrointestinal tract, skin, brain, liver, kidney, blood vessels, striated muscles of the limbs, bone marrow, heart, ovary, uterus and testicles.
Result: SARS-CoV RNA was detected in the cytoplasm of the alveolar epithelia, infiltrating mononuclear phagocytes in the lungs, serous gland epithelium of the trachea/bronchus, monocytes in the spleen and lymph nodes, acinar cells in the pancreas, acidophilic cells in the parathyroid and pituitary, adrenal cortical cells, epithelia of the alimentary tracts, gastric parietal cells, sweat gland cells, brain neurons, hepatocytes near the central vein, epithelia of the distal renal tubules, bone marrow promyelocytes, and endothelia of the small veins.
Conclusions: SARS-CoV invades various organs of the body and distributes in a similar fashion to CD13, the receptor of human coronavirus 229E. The detection of SARS-CoV in the sweat glands, alimentary tracts and epithelia of the distal convoluted tubules of the kidney may help identify the transmission routes of SARS-CoV.