Difficulties in Differentiating Coronaviruses from Subcellular Structures in Human Tissues by Electron Microscopy.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have placed a renewed focus on the use of transmission electron microscopy for identifying coronavirus in tissues. In attempts to attribute pathology of COVID-19 patients directly to tissue damage caused by SARS-CoV-2, investigators have inaccurately reported subcellular structures, including coated vesicles, multivesicular bodies, and vesiculating rough endoplasmic reticulum, as coronavirus particles. We describe morphologic features of coronavirus that distinguish it from subcellular structures, including particle size range (60-140 nm), intracellular particle location within membrane-bound vacuoles, and a nucleocapsid appearing in cross section as dense dots (6-12 nm) within the particles. In addition, although the characteristic spikes of coronaviruses may be visible on the virus surface, especially on extracellular particles, they are less evident in thin sections than in negative stain preparations.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bullock, HA; Goldsmith, CS; Zaki, SR; Martines, RB; Miller, SE

Published Date

  • April 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 1023 - 1031

PubMed ID

  • 33600302

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8007326

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1080-6059

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3201/eid2704.204337


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States