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

Searching for clues under the microscope to understand COVID-19

Image of a researcher placing a drop of fluid under a microscope. Click to open a larger version of the image. 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...

Ventilator Tutorial V500/PB840 Drager (April 10, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
DHA Seal

Ventilator assembly and input of settings for two common ICU ventilators.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

ICU Nursing Series: Assembling Pressure Tubing (March 31, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
DHA Seal

This video will review how to assemble pressure tubing to transduce pressures and waveforms from arterial lines and central lines. Connection to an ICU monitor with zeroing is also reviewed.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Acid Base for the Non-intensivist (March 21, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
DHA Seal

This video will teach you the etiologies for the various acid-base disorders as well as teach you how to interpret an ABG with a focus on metabolic acidosis and mixed disorders. This will teach you little to nothing about buffering, organic chemistry, biochemistry, etc. This is for practical application at the bedside.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Sepsis In The Age of COVID-19 (April 10, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
DHA Seal

This video will review diagnosis and management of sepsis with some clarifications/alterations that apply during the COVID pandemic. This video is not all inclusive. It is meant as a refresher for non-intensivists.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Awakening Trials, Breathing Trials, and Extubation (March 27, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
DHA Seal

This video covers safety screens and failure criteria for Spontaneous Awakening Trials (SATs) and Spontaneous Breathing Trials (SBTs). These together form the ABCs of daily care of ICU patients on vents (Airway and Breathing Coordination). Additionally, it covers the criteria that should be met prior to attempting extubation.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

BAMCheroes appreciation

Video
4/29/2020
DHA Seal

Our community has been a great source of support! Check out some of the positive feedback Brooke Army Medical Center has received for our incredible healthcare professionals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

MHS Minute - Military Medicine: On the Front Lines of COVID-19

Video
4/24/2020
The MHS Minute, Special Edition: COVID-19

Agencies across the federal government are partnering up to combat COVID-19. Find out how the Military Health System is doing its part to support the U.S. response to this pandemic, while ensuring our Service members remain ready.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Video Message from LTG Ronald J. Place, MD

Video
4/24/2020
DHA Seal

Thank you for continuing to do your part to help flatten the curve

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Stay Home Slide Show

Video
4/10/2020
DHA Seal

Slide show of photos from BAMC's #stayhome campaign

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

MHS Minute Combatting COVID 19

Video
3/30/2020
The MHS Minute, Special Edition: COVID-19

Agencies across the federal government are partnering up to combat COVID-19. Find out how the Military Health System is doing its part to support the U.S. response to this pandemic, while ensuring our Service members remain ready.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 46 - 55 Page 4 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.