Case studies and autopsy results from the United States are confirming that, in some cases, the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) can cause such severe lung damage that those affected require a lung transplant to survive.
In a new study, researchers in Chicago analyzed discarded tissue from Covid-19 patients who had lung transplants and from patients who died of the disease. They found that Covid-19 can destroy the “fundamental framework” of the lungs, meaning the organs simply cannot recover.
“We provide explicit evidence that Covid-19 can cause permanent damage to the lung in some patients for whom lung transplantation is the only hope for survival,” said study principal investigator Dr. Ankit Bharat, the chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program, in Chicago.
His team also discovered unique cells – called KRT17 epithelial cells – in the lung tissue of Covid-19 patients with irreversible damage. These cells have also been found in patients with end-stage pulmonary fibrosis, a deadly progressive lung disease.
The findings, the first of its kind on the issue, were published this week in Science Translational Medicine. To date, eight Covid-19 patients have received double-lung transplants at Northwestern Medicine, the most performed at any health system in the world. SOVEREIGNPH