Professor Liu Liang talks about the first COVID-19 autopsy

release time:2020-03-20

Professor Liu Liang, the doctor who performed the first COVID-19 autopsy, said the virus shares some similarities with SARS, but also has its characteristics.

Professor LiuFrom the current pathological result, a sticky liquid can be seen from the cut surface of the infected lungs, which provides critical information for clinical treatment.

The liquid(from the cut surface of the lungs) was thick and sticky and adhered to the surface of lungs. It might tell us that in the early stage of infection, the secretion from the patient was very sticky. Usually when we get a flu,we drop clear nasal mucus, which is called the catarrh, but this one was different.

It told us that if we found mucus deep in the nasal airway and don’t pertinently deal with it in our medical treatments, then our treatment might have a negative if we don’t dissect the bodies, yeah, we will never know.

Reporter: During such a short period of time at the scene, what can you observe?

Professor Liu: I could see if the color of the infected lungs matches the color of the healthy ones. I could touch them and feel the texture. And I could also press the lungs to see if there was anything coming out of them.

Reporter:Are these pieces of information important for epidemic control?

Professor Liu: They are really important. For example, when we press a healthy lung, it feels like a sponge, because it contains air. But if we touch a lung that was infected by novel coronavirus, the feeling will be different, because the lungs have already changed. The lungs had changed and something inside had been displaced.

Reporter: How important is this finding?

Professor Liu:If you don’t conduct an autopsy to check it, you won’t be able to tell the medics what really happened inside the lungs and the doctor won’t know either. We have no idea whether the have hardened or remained soft.

And what do the white lung feel like? Are they as hard as a block of marble or as hard as a piece of wood, or just as hard as a cork?

Reporter: So what will this information you gathered bring to the front line doctors?

Professor LiuAt least the doctors will know the hiding place of the “virus snipers” and then try to kill them. If the virus are as strong as flamethrowers, then we need to take a pertinent approach to fight back.But if they are too dense to fight, then we can send our gunners to conquer them. So in a word, if the enemy is afraid of water,then we use water to conquer it. And if they are afraid of fire,then we use fire. We need to understand the pathological changes carefully and bring out pertinent and precise treatment measures. Otherwise, even the ventilation therapy will eventually fail to function because the deep airways have already been clogged up, just like a traffic jam,if you send more cares,they will only block the road. What we need is to unblock the road as soon as possible.

The lack of complete pathological information from systematic autopsies makes researchers unable to determine the pathogenesis of the disease and its damage to organs.

Since the outbreak began,Liu Liang has been calling for autopsies of the decreased.

On February 16, Liuliang’s team completes two pathological autopsies- an extremely dangerous task.

Professor LiuFirst, you are in a small autopsy room; second, you don’t know how many viruses are exposed, when we dissect the body.

ReporterIs the virus concentration level related to time?

Professor LiuYes. The longer the body stays open, the more the virus will be exposed. It’s like we’re at the center of a nuclear radiation zone.

ReporterAre you afraid?Because you can’t avoid contact with the bodies. There should be a large number of viruses inside the body, right?

Professor LiuYes, we were afraid, it would be a lie if we said we weren’t. I have performed SARS and AIDS autopsies but that was after someone else had already done it. We didn’t know if we would be infected 14 days after the autopsies. You don’t even know if the virus is spread via aerosol transmission. So it’s a risky thing to do. We are the first ones doing this in the world.

ReporterThen why are you doing it when it’s so dangerous?

Professor LiuSomeone has to do it, i would say when a disaster like this is at our doorstep, if we don’t start acting. I would feel ashamed.