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SARS-CoV-2 detection in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue specimens from surgical resection of tongue squamous cell carcinoma
  1. Elena Guerini-Rocco1,2,
  2. Sergio Vincenzo Taormina1,
  3. Davide Vacirca1,
  4. Alberto Ranghiero1,
  5. Alessandra Rappa1,
  6. Caterina Fumagalli1,
  7. Fausto Maffini1,
  8. Cristiano Rampinelli3,
  9. Domenico Galetta4,
  10. Marta Tagliabue5,
  11. Mohssen Ansarin5,
  12. Massimo Barberis1
  1. 1 Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, IEO, European Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Milano, Italy
  2. 2 Department of Oncology and Hemato-Oncology, University of Milano, Milano, Italy
  3. 3 Division of Radiology, IEO, European Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Milano, Italy
  4. 4 Division of Thoracic Surgery, IEO, European Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Milano, Italy
  5. 5 Division of Otolaryngology and Head-Neck Surgery, IEO, European Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Milano, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Massimo Barberis, Clinic Unit of Histopathology and Molecular Diagnostics, Istituto Europeo di Oncologia, Milano 20141, Italy; Massimo.Barberis{at}


In the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, pathologists can be exposed to infection handling surgical specimens. Guidelines related to safety procedures in the laboratory have been released. However, there is a lack of studies performed on biopsy and surgical resection specimens. Here we report the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples from surgical resection of tongue squamous cell carcinoma of a patient who developed COVID-19 postsurgery. RNA of SARS-CoV-2 strain was detected in the tumour and the normal submandibular gland samples using real-time PCR-based assay. No viral RNA was found in metastatic and reactive lymph nodes. We demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be detected in routine histopathological samples even before COVID-19 disease development. These findings may give important information on the possible sites of infection or virus reservoir, and highlight the necessity of proper handling and fixation before sample processing.

  • viruses
  • pathology, oral
  • pathology, molecular

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  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Contributors All authors made substantial contributions to this study and this manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study was conducted in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and later amendments.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.