Clinical Infectious Diseases 2021; 73(0): S472 - S479

Minimally Invasive Tissue Sampling as an Alternative to Complete Diagnostic Autopsies in the Context of Epidemic Outbreaks and Pandemics: The Example of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Bassat Q, Varo R, Hurtado JC, Marimon L, Ferrando M, Ismail MR, Carrilho C, Fernandes F, Castro P, Maixenchs M, Rodrigo-Calvo MT, Guerrero J, Martínez A, Lacerda MVG, Mandomando I, Menéndez C, Martínez MJ, Ordi J, Rakislova N
Infectious diseases' outbreak investigation requires, by definition, conducting a thorough epidemiological assessment while simultaneously obtaining biological samples for an adequate screening of potential responsible pathogens. Complete autopsies remain the gold-standard approach for cause-of-death evaluation and characterization of emerging diseases. However, for highly transmissible infections with a significant associated lethality, such as COVID-19, complete autopsies are seldom performed due to biosafety challenges, especially in low-resource settings. Minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) is a validated new approach based on obtaining postmortem samples from key organs and body fluids, a procedure that does not require advanced biosafety measures or a special autopsy room.We aimed to review the use of MITS or similar procedures for outbreak investigation up to 27 March 2021 and their performance for evaluating COVID-19 deaths.After a literature review, we analyzed in detail the results of 20 studies conducted at international sites, whereby 216 COVID-19-related deaths were investigated. MITS provided a general and more granular understanding of the pathophysiological changes secondary to the infection and high-quality samples where the extent and degree of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-related damage could be evaluated.MITS is a useful addition in the investigation and surveillance of infections occurring in outbreaks or epidemics. Its less invasive nature makes the tool more acceptable and feasible and reduces the risk of procedure-associated contagion, using basic biosafety measures. Standardized approaches protocolizing which samples should be collected-and under which exact biosafety measures-are necessary to facilitate and expand its use globally.© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.