The spectrum of pathological changes in severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

Histopathology. 2004 Aug;45(2):119-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2004.01926.x.


Aims: To analyse the lung pathology of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and correlate the findings with the time sequence of the disease.

Methods and results: Ten patients with a clinical diagnosis of SARS, and virological confirmation of SARS coronavirus infection were identified. Histology in most cases showed diffuse alveolar damage, from early to late phases, and the changes corresponded to the time sequence. Other variable features include multinucleated giant cells, pneumocytes with cytomegaly and variable amounts of inflammatory cells and foamy macrophages. One case showed superimposed bronchopneumonia. No viral inclusions were found. Coronavirus particles were identified in pneumocytes by electron microscopy.

Conclusions: The predominant pathological process of SARS is diffuse alveolar damage and, in patients who die from the disease, there is evidence of organization and fibrosis. There are apparently no histological features specific for this disease, and the aetiological diagnosis depends on virological and ultrastructural studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchopneumonia / complications
  • Bronchopneumonia / pathology
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Coronavirus / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / complications
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / pathology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / virology
  • Time Factors