A team of researchers in Saudi Arabia have identified certain airspace changes in patients with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, by studying CT scans from seven hospitalized patients.
The changes “were more in the form ground-glass opacities than that of consolidation,” says lead author Amr Ajlan, a radiologist at the King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia. These changes are not distinctive to MERS-CoV infections only, but the patients also showed changes suggestive of an organizing pneumonia pattern.
The team of researchers studied patients ranging from 19 to 83 years of age, with a median age of 50 – all of whom were hospitalized and showing symptoms of the disease, such as coughing, fever and dyspnea. “These findings are useful in the context of acute viral illness in individuals living in or traveling from regions with a known MERS outbreak,” explains Ajlan.
He quickly adds, however, that CT should not be considered a screening tool for the disease, but that diagnosing and managing patients should continue to depend on the clinical and laboratory pictures instead. “We investigated only a small number of confirmed MERS patients, a fact that prevents us from reaching conclusions regarding the diagnostic performance of CT in evaluating MERS.” All the investigated patients were already hospitalized showing clear symptoms as well, which means the team has not assessed asymptomatic patients or ones with mild symptoms.
“With regards to imaging, the more available, cheap and commonly performed chest X-ray is practically more valuable in investigating MERS cases,” he adds.
The study appeared ahead of print online in the American Journal of Roentgenology.