COVID-19 autopsy cases: detection of virus in endocrine tissues

J Endocrinol Invest. 2022 Jan;45(1):209-214. doi: 10.1007/s40618-021-01628-y. Epub 2021 Jun 30.


Purpose: The SARS-CoV-2 genome has been detected in a variety of human samples including blood, urine, semen, and faeces. However, evidence of virus presence in tissues other than lung are limited.

Methods: We investigated whether SARS-CoV-2 could be detected in 50 autoptic specimens of endocrine organs from 29 patients who died of COVID-19.

Results: The virus was detected in 25 specimens including ten abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue samples (62%), six testes (67%), and nine thyroid (36%) samples. The analysis of multiple endocrine organ samples obtained from the same patients showed that, in virus-positive cases, the viral genome was consistently detected in all but two matched specimens.

Conclusion: Our findings show that the virus spread into endocrine organs is a common event in severe cases. Further studies should assess the rate of the phenomenon in clinically mild cases. The potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on endocrine functions should be taken into consideration.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Testis; Thyroid.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / virology
  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Endocrine Glands / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Subcutaneous Fat / virology
  • Testis / virology
  • Thyroid Gland / virology


  • RNA, Viral