dcyphr | Multiorgan and Renal Tropism of SARS-CoV-2


This study aims to discover the tropism of SARS-CoV-2 to other organs. Viral tropism refers to the ability of a virus to infect other cells. SARS-CoV-2 mainly infects the cells of the lungs and respiratory system. The respiratory tropism can explain why we see respiratory symptoms in COVID-19 patients. But, the virus does interact with other organ systems as well. In this study, 27 COVID-19 positive patient autopsies were done to see which other organs SARS-CoV-2 can infect. Most of the patients had more than 2 other coexisting conditions. More coexisting conditions are linked with higher levels of SARS-CoV-2 in the kidneys. 


This study used PCR, immunohistochemistry, and confocal microscopy to assess the tissue samples.


The respiratory system still had the highest number of SARS-CoV-2 virus per cell, therefore the highest tropism. But the kidneys, liver, heart, brain, and blood also had virus present. The kidneys were a target of SARS-CoV-2. The virus seemed to target the glomerular cells of the kidney, which make up the glomerulus. Since kidneys were a target for SARS-CoV-2, the researchers tested the RNA in these cells. There were high RNA levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2), and cathepsin L (CTSL) in the kidney tissue. These are all molecules that help SARS-CoV-2 enter the cell. This may be why there is increased tropism in the kidney tissue compared to some other organs. The high tropism of the kidney tissue could explain why kidney damage can be seen in COVID-19 patients. Some COVID-19 patients who do not have severe respiratory symptoms can still have injury to their kidneys.