Coronavirus is capable of completely damaging the lungs of persons
died from it, a new study has shown.
A professor of cardiovascular science, Prof Mauro Giacca, told the UK
parliament that persons who have spent more than a month in hospital
are prone to having a “complete disruption of their lung
“What you find in the lungs of people who have stayed with the
disease for more than a month before dying is something completely
different from normal pneumonia, influenza or the Sars virus,” he
said. “You see massive thrombosis. There is a complete disruption of
the lung architecture – in some lights you can’t even distinguish that
it used to be a lung.
“There are large numbers of very big fused cells which are virus
positive with as many as 10, 15 nuclei,” he said. “I am convinced this
explains the unique pathology of Covid-19. This is not a disease
caused by a virus which kills cells, which had profound implications
In findings that he said showed the potential for “real problems”
after survival, he told the Lords science and technology committee
that he had studied the autopsies of patients who died in Italy after
30 to 40 days in intensive care and discovered large amounts of the
virus persisting in lungs as well as highly unusual fused cells.
His evidence came as the Lords committee heard from medical scientists
and doctors grappling with the nature of Covid-19 six months after its
emergence in Europe, its behaviour, treatments, vaccines and the
possibility of immunity.
Sir John Bell, a professor of medicine at Oxford University who is a
member of the government’s coronavirus vaccine taskforce, said
attempts to understand whether people who have had the disease gather
any immunity would need to be tested during a second wave of
infections in the UK, which he said was now likely.
“Given the lockdown has now been largely released, we are now back in
action and we still have a pretty reasonable level of infections in
the community, I would be very surprised if we avoided a second wave,”
he said. “I think the real question is are we going to have a number
of outbursts and then a second wave or are we just going to get a
A new peak would likely allow Public Health England to test immunity
on about 100,000 healthcare workers who had tested positive and so
might have antibodies, he said. Whether they get reinfected will help
show how immunity works but without a new peak it will be hard to find
The committee also heard from Prof Adrian Hayday, the chair of the
department of immunobiology at King’s College London, who supported
arguments that socioeconomic factors were key to understanding why
there had been high levels of infections among black and minority
ethnic communities in the UK.
“In studies of patients in London hospitals, black, African, Asian and
minority groups show higher rates of admission to hospital, which
shows they are more likely to have become infected under conditions
where the virus dose is maybe high,” he said.
“But once they are in hospital they do just as well as anybody. The
hypothesis is they are disproportionately suffering from socioeconomic
factors that make them more likely to receive high-frequency, high
doses of infection. That is not to say the hypothesis is correct, but
it is perfectly valid until proven otherwise.”