Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections using commercially available reagents

Lab Invest. 2020 Nov;100(11):1485-1489. doi: 10.1038/s41374-020-0464-x. Epub 2020 Jul 9.


Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19), caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, was initially recognized in Wuhan, China and subsequently spread to all continents. The disease primarily affects the lower respiratory system, but may involve other organs and systems. Histopathologic evaluation of tissue from affected patients is crucial for diagnostic purposes, but also for advancing our understanding of the disease. For that reason, we developed immunohistochemical (IHC) and in situ hybridization (ISH) assays for detection of the. virus. A total of eight autopsy lungs, one placenta, and ten kidney biopsies from COVID-19 patients were stained with a panel of commercially available antibodies for IHC and commercially available RNA probes for ISH. Similarly, autopsy lungs, placentas and renal biopsies from non-COVID-19 patients were stained with the same antibodies and probes. All eight lungs and the placenta from COVID-19 patients stained positive by IHC and ISH, while the kidney biopsies stained negative by both methodologies. As expected, all specimens from non-COVID-19 patients were IHC and ISH negative. These two assays represent a sensitive and specific method for detecting the virus in tissue samples. We provide the protocols and the list of commercially available antibodies and probes for these assays, so they can be readily implemented in pathology laboratories and medical examiner offices for diagnostic and research purposes.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods*
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Kidney / virology
  • Lung / virology
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Placenta / virology
  • Pregnancy
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Indicators and Reagents