INFECTION with the novel China betacoronavirus (2019-nCoV) was detected using medical imaging techniques such as CT scans and X-rays, alongside other laboratory tests, in Wuhan, China. This is according to findings of two studies published in The Lancet on January 24th 2020 by Prof Bin Cao and colleagues examining the first 41 patients with confirmed infection between December 16th 2019 and January 2nd 2020, and by Prof Kwok-Yung Yuen and colleagues who investigated a family of six who had visited Wuhan from December 29th 2019 to January 4th 2020.
In the study led by Prof Cao, chest CT scans were used to assess all 41 individuals. The findings exposed abnormalities in the scans which suggested pneumonia, and patients transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) typically presented with bilateral multiple lobular and subsegmental areas of consolidation. Analysis of scans for the non-ICU patients typically showed bilateral ground-glass opacity and subsegmental areas of consolidation.
The study conducted by Prof Yuen and colleagues studied six family members, of which five were confirmed to have 2019-nCoV. All six underwent chest CT scans which, after analysis, showed multifocal patchy ground-glass opacities in all patients, though the patients aged >60 years old had more extensive ground-glass lung changes. These are all changes comparable to the scans observed in patients with viral pneumonia. The authors reported no other radiological differences, such as lung congestion, fibrosis, or cancer, which would explain the changes seen in ground-glass opacity.
Over 20,000 cases of 2019-nCoV have now been confirmed worldwide and though it appears to cause similar symptoms to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), there are important clinical differences. To prevent further spread of the virus, reliable testing and imaging will be essential to doctors diagnosing symptomatic patients suspected to be infected with the novel betacoronavirus.