Inside the Detective-style Hunt for Missed COVID-19 Cases

A small group of doctors across the US are reviewing tissue and blood samples preserved from autopsies in an effort to find the earliest COVID-19 cases.

Workers check in residents at a mobile COVID-19 testing site set up on a vacant lot
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Dr. Matija Snuderl has spent the last couple of months poring over tissue samples collected from the bodies of the recently departed.

As a neuropathologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, he’s usually diagnosing brain tumors and other brain diseases. But this effort goes beyond his typical duties: Snuderl is among a group of medical experts around the country on a detective-style hunt for missed cases of COVID-19.

“At this point, it is critical to better understand the silent spread that was happening before the outbreak officially began [in New York],” Snuderl said.

As cases surge in some parts of the country, doctors like Snuderl are working to better understand the early trajectory of the virus in hopes of discovering unseen patterns that could help inform future public health policies.

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