Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Searching for clues under the microscope to understand COVID-19

Researcher placing a drop of fluid under a microscope. Pathologists at the Joint Pathology Center are searching for clues to understand how COVID-19 is harming patients. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Pathologists at the Joint Pathology Center meticulously piece together clues to help health care providers better understand COVID-19. By studying tissue samples under the microscope, patterns emerge of the damage that the respiratory virus leaves in the human body, said Army Col. (Dr.) Joel Moncur, director of the JPC. The center consults with medical facilities in New York City on adult and pediatric cases of COVID-19 to help further unravel the mysterious effects of the disease.

Nestled within the Defense Health Agency, the JPC serves as the reference pathology lab for the entire Military Health System, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and the federal government on the most challenging cases, according to Moncur. By serving as a centralized review site, the pathologists at JPC compare findings across multiple patients and compile data in order to track disease trends that may affect the fighting force, he added.

With 19 subspecialties, JPC’s pathologists provide expertise in all the major organs of the body, including the lungs. “By looking through a microscope at tissues, we can learn if a disease is related to inflammation or if it’s cancerous and, if it is cancer, if it is slow growing or highly aggressive,” explained Moncur.

COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, ravages the human body in new and unprecedented ways—from causing blood clots and lung damage to creating dangerous immune responses in adults and children, according to Moncur. “Pathology has an enormous amount to contribute because if we can understand the disease, then it’s possible to suggest logical treatments and potential methods of prevention,” he said.

JPC’s long history provides many examples of pathologists playing a key role in changing the way the medical and scientific communities view disease. “In fact, many of the pathologists at the JPC have made discoveries that are now part of the official classifications of diseases as a result of their thoughtful observations,” he said, adding that an average of 70% of medical decisions for any patient result from laboratory testing and analysis.

Like detectives, pathologists search for evidence within tissue samples, but those at JPC also use the lab’s rich historical data to help tell the story of a disease or outbreak. The center maintains the world’s largest collection of preserved human tissue samples, going back to 1917, said Moncur. An official audit in 2006 found over 55 million glass slides and at least 35 million tissue block samples. These samples span every major epidemic and pandemic in the past century, including the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. In fact, according to Moncur, in 1997 a scientist using tissue from the JPC repository published research stating that a novel H1N1 influenza virus served as the source of the so-called Spanish flu, which killed over 50 million people, and that a bacterial pneumonia acted as a common secondary cause of death. “It was really significant information because it changed the face of public health from that point forward,” he added, noting public health scientists have used information from that research to help prevent future outbreaks.

Working in collaboration with civilian medical facilities in New York City, JPC pathologists scour for clues to understand COVID-19. JPC pathologists also work with researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease, the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and the National Institutes of Health to analyze and study how COVID-19 causes damage within the body.

The JPC is part of the DHA's National Capital Region Market. Markets are groups of military treatment facilities in specific regions of the United States that operate as a system, sharing patients, staff, administrative functions and budgets across facilities to improve coordination in the delivery of military health care.

“By examining the tissues, we hope to understand how COVID-19 is harming patients and understand the second and third order of effects of that infection, just like with the 1918 flu,” said Moncur. “That information can point to possible treatments that could be investigated.”

You also may be interested in...

Got Your 6

Video
9/16/2021
Got Your 6 Infographic

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, on days that end in ‘6.’ It includes the latest information about DOD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

CSM Gragg Vaccine Statement

Video
8/24/2021
CSM Gragg speaks about COVID-19

CSM Gragg shares his personal story dealing with COVID and the loss associated with it and urges all to take precautions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Got Your 6: August 16, 2021

Video
8/16/2021
Got Your 6: August 16, 2021

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, on days that end in ‘6.’ It includes the latest information about DOD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Lt. Gen. Place and Command Sgt. Maj. Gragg on Getting Vaccinated

Video
8/16/2021
DHA Logo with the text: Importance of Vaccinations Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place & Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Gragg

DHA Director Lt. Gen. Ron Place and DHA Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg talk about how getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is more important than ever.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Got Your 6

Video
7/27/2021
Got Your 6

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

Got Your 6

Video
7/16/2021
Got your 6

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil. Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Battle Against the COVID-19 Delta Variant

Video
6/29/2021
COVID-19 Delta war infographic

Like our enemies in the past, the coronavirus has adapted and we're now dealing with the most transmissible variant yet, Delta. The fight can be won with vaccination. If you're not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus, go get your shot today. Otherwise you're at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Got Your 6: June 26, 2021

Video
6/25/2021
Got Your 6 Infographic

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Delta Variant

The Delta Variant: A New Reason to Get Vaccinated

Video
6/25/2021
COVID-19 infographic

Are you a service member age 18 to 30? Are you unvaccinated? You may be entitled to severe disease, hospitalization, and death. To avoid these options, get vaccinated today!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant

VAX Facts: Which Vaccine is Right for Me?

Video
5/28/2021
DHA Seal

Dr. LC Collins talks about the importance of getting the first vaccine available to you. Don't hold out for a certain brand; they're all safe and effective.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Video
5/28/2021
DHA Seal

Dr. LC Collins explains how mRNA vaccines work to protect you from COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Are mRNA vaccines safe?

Video
5/28/2021
DHA Seal

Dr. LC Collins explains the years of research and ongoing monitoring to show how mRNA vaccines are safe and effective.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts: Breastfeeding after the COVID-19 Vaccine

Video
5/28/2021
DHA Seal

Dr. LC Collins encourages people who are breastfeeding to get the vaccine. Since the vaccine doesn't contain live virus, you can't pass COVID to your baby.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts: Do I Need the Vaccine if I Had COVID?

Video
5/28/2021
DHA Seal

Dr. LC Collins talks about the importance of getting vaccinated even if you already had COVID. We're not sure how long natural immunity lasts, so getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Town Hall May 26 2021

Video
5/26/2021
Town Hall May 26 2021

RADM Anne Swap will discuss the National Capital Region's response to COVID-19

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | National Capital Region Market
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.