UChicago is present in the fight against COVID-19

Dr. Shu-Yuan Xiao

March 6, 2020

In the ongoing fight against the new COVID-19 epidemic, University of Chicago Medicine Professor of Pathology Shu-Yuan Xiao has been involved on the ground in Wuhan, China, as well as in the medical room to study and research this new disease.

Earlier this year, Dr. Xiao was present in Wuhan during the beginning stages of the epidemic. After receiving permission of the University of Chicago to remain and volunteer in Wuhan, Dr. Xiao worked with local doctors to help triage patients.

“There's a shortage of doctors here. I'm a doctor. This is my hometown. These are my people,” said Dr. Xiao.

Dr. Xiao also co-authored a study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, which describes the early phase pathology of COVID-19, also known as SARS-Cov-2, from two infected patients who underwent lung surgery. As described by scientists involved in the study, lungs of both surgery patients exhibited edema, liquid proteinaceous secretions, fibrous connective tissue lesions with patchy inflammation, and multinucleated giant cells. Considering that both patients did not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms at the time of surgery, these conditions likely represent an early phase of the lung pathology of COVID19.

"This is the first study to describe the pathology of disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 pneumonia, since no autopsy or biopsies had been performed thus far," said Dr. Xiao. "This would be the only descriptions of early phase pathology of the disease due to this rare coincidence. There would be no other circumstance that this will happen. Autopsies will only show late or end stage changes of the disease."

Researchers involved in the study say the presence of early lung lesions before any exhibited symptoms corresponds to the disease’s long incubation period, usually 3-14 days.

"We believe it is imperative to report the findings of routine histopathology for better understanding of the mechanism by which the SARS-CoV-2 causes lung injury in the unfortunate tens and thousands of patients in Wuhan and worldwide," Dr. Xiao said.

Dr. Xiao has safely returned to Chicago in late February, after finishing his quarantine in California.