The pathology of severe dengue in multiple organs of human fatal cases: histopathology, ultrastructure and virus replication

PLoS One. 2014 Apr 15;9(4):e83386. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083386. eCollection 2014.


Dengue is a public health problem, with several gaps in understanding its pathogenesis. Studies based on human fatal cases are extremely important and may clarify some of these gaps. In this work, we analyzed lesions in different organs of four dengue fatal cases, occurred in Brazil. Tissues were prepared for visualization in optical and electron microscopy, with damages quantification. As expected, we observed in all studied organ lesions characteristic of severe dengue, such as hemorrhage and edema, although other injuries were also detected. Cases presented necrotic areas in the liver and diffuse macro and microsteatosis, which were more accentuated in case 1, who also had obesity. The lung was the most affected organ, with hyaline membrane formation associated with mononuclear infiltrates in patients with pre-existing diseases such as diabetes and obesity (cases 1 and 2, respectively). These cases had also extensive acute tubular necrosis in the kidney. Infection induced destruction of cardiac fibers in most cases, with absence of nucleus and loss of striations, suggesting myocarditis. Spleens revealed significant destruction of the germinal centers and atrophy of lymphoid follicles, which may be associated to decrease of T cell number. Circulatory disturbs were reinforced by the presence of megakaryocytes in alveolar spaces, thrombus formation in glomerular capillaries and loss of endothelium in several tissues. Besides histopathological and ultrastructural observations, virus replication were investigated by detection of dengue antigens, especially the non-structural 3 protein (NS3), and confirmed by the presence of virus RNA negative strand (in situ hybridization), with second staining for identification of some cells. Results showed that dengue had broader tropism comparing to what was described before in literature, replicating in hepatocytes, type II pneumocytes and cardiac fibers, as well as in resident and circulating monocytes/macrophages and endothelial cells.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dengue Virus*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Heart / virology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Kidney / virology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Liver / virology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / ultrastructure
  • Lung / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Myocardium / ultrastructure
  • Severe Dengue / diagnosis
  • Severe Dengue / pathology*
  • Severe Dengue / virology*
  • Spleen / pathology
  • Spleen / ultrastructure
  • Spleen / virology
  • Virus Replication
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Funding provided by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ); Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq); Programa de Excelência em Pesquisa (PROEP/CNPq/FIOCRUZ); Programa de Apoio a Núcleos de Excelencia (PRONEX)–CNPq/FAPERJ; Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia de Vacinas (INCTV)/CNPq grants. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.