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SARS-CoV-2 endothelial infection causes COVID-19 chilblains: histopathological, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural study of seven paediatric cases

Colmenero, I; Santonja, C; Alonso-Riano, M; Noguera-Morel, L; Hernandez-Martin, A; Andina, D; Wiesner, T; Rodriguez-Peralto, JL; Requena, L; Torrelo, A

BRITISH JOURNAL OF DERMATOLOGY
2020
VL / 183 - BP / 729 - EP / 737
abstract
Background Chilblains ('COVID toes') are being seen with increasing frequency in children and young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed histopathological descriptions of COVID-19 chilblains have not been reported, and causality of SARS-CoV-2 has not yet been established. Objectives To describe the histopathological features of COVID-19 chilblains and to explore the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the tissue. Methods We examined skin biopsies from seven paediatric patients presenting with chilblains during the COVID-19 pandemic. Immunohistochemistry for SARS-CoV-2 was performed in all cases and electron microscopy in one. Results Histopathology showed variable degrees of lymphocytic vasculitis ranging from endothelial swelling and endotheliitis to fibrinoid necrosis and thrombosis. Purpura, superficial and deep perivascular lymphocytic inflammation with perieccrine accentuation, oedema, and mild vacuolar interface damage were also seen. SARS-CoV-2 immunohistochemistry was positive in endothelial cells and epithelial cells of eccrine glands. Coronavirus particles were found in the cytoplasm of endothelial cells on electron microscopy. Conclusions Although the clinical and histopathological features were similar to other forms of chilblains, the presence of viral particles in the endothelium and the histological evidence of vascular damage support a causal relation of the lesions with SARS-CoV-2. Endothelial damage induced by the virus could be the key mechanism in the pathogenesis of COVID-19 chilblains and perhaps also in a group of patients severely affected by COVID-19 presenting with features of microangiopathic damage.
52nd Global

AccesS level

Bronze, Green Published

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PROYECTO FINANCIADO POR PLAN NACIONAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN AGENCIA ESTATAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN, MINISTERIO DE CIENCIA E INNOVACIÓN. PID2019-109127RB-I00