Journal of Pathology Informatics Journal of Pathology Informatics
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48

Use of telepathology to facilitate COVID-19 research and education through an online COVID-19 autopsy biorepository

1 Division of Anatomic Pathology, Department of Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Durban, South Africa
2 Africa Health Research Institute, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa
3 Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA; Program in Protease and Matrix Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
4 Division of Genomic Diagnostics & Bioinformatics, Department of Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
5 Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, Department of Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Paul V Benson
The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Division of Anatomic Pathology, Autopsy Section Head, HSB 175 H1, 619 19th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35249-6823.
South Africa
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jpi.jpi_15_21

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Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the use of technology for communication including departmental conferences, working remotely, and distance teaching. Methods to enable these activities should be developed and promulgated. Objective: To repurpose a preexisting educational website to enable the development of a COVID-19 autopsy biorepository to support distance teaching and COVID-19 research. Methods: After consent was obtained, autopsies were performed on patients with a confirmed positive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain reaction test. Autopsies were performed according to a COVID-19 protocol, and all patients underwent both gross and microscopic examination. The H and E histology slides were scanned using a Leica Biosystems Aperio CS ScanScope whole slide scanner and the digital slide files were converted to deep zoom images that could be uploaded to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Pathology Educational Instructional Resource website where virtual microscopy of the slides is available. Results: A total of 551 autopsy slides from 24 UAB COVID-19 cases, 1 influenza H1N1 case and 1 tuberculosis case were scanned and uploaded. Five separate COVID-19 research teams used the digital slides remotely with or without a pathologist on a Zoom call. The scanned slides were used to produce one published case report and one published research project. The digital COVID-19 autopsy biorepository was routinely used for educational conferences and research meetings locally, nationally and internationally. Conclusion: The repurposing of a pre-existing website enabled telepathology consultation for research and education purposes. Combined with other communication technology (Zoom) this achievement highlights what is possible using pre-existing technologies during a global pandemic.

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