Pathologic features of COVID-19: A concise review

Pathol Res Pract. 2020 Sep;216(9):153097. doi: 10.1016/j.prp.2020.153097. Epub 2020 Jul 4.


The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), first appeared in December 2019, in Wuhan, China and evolved into a pandemic. As Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) is one of the potential target receptors for SARS-CoV-2 in human body, which is expressed in different tissues, multiple organs might become affected. In the initial phase of the current pandemic, a handful of post-mortem case-series revealed COVID-19-related pathological changes in various organs. Although pathological examination is not a feasible method of diagnosis, it can elucidate pathological changes, pathogenesis of the disease, and the cause of death in COVID-19 cases. Herein, we thoroughly reviewed multiple organs including lung, gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidney, skin, heart, blood, spleen, lymph nodes, brain, blood vessels, and placenta in terms of COVID-19-related pathological alterations. Also, these findings were compared with SARS and MERS infection, wherever applicable. We found a diverse range of pathological changes, some of which resemble those found in SARS and MERS.

Keywords: COVID-19; Histopathology; Pathology; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity*
  • COVID-19
  • China
  • Coronavirus Infections / metabolism
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Lung / virology
  • Pandemics
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / metabolism
  • Pneumonia, Viral / metabolism
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2