Recent research shows how COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2 is likely to infect and kill an individual's heart and muscle cells. It proposes that heart damage conditions in COVID-19 patients previously reported were not because of inflammation as a reaction to an infection but the coronavirus itself meddling with heart damage.
Even though the virus was originally considered a respiratory disease, 2020 reports consistently specified that patients experienced remarkable cardiovascular complications, as shown on Mayo Clinic's YouTube video below.
A News Atlas report says that the common preliminary consensus was that heart ailments linked to COVID-19 were a secondary outcome of prevalent inflammation that comes with the illness.
According to the study's senior author, Kory Lavine, early on in this global health crisis, they showed that COVID-19 could cause heart damage or injury in typically healthy people. This is worrisome for those in the field of cardiology.
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In July 2019, a study that the National Library of Medicine entitled "Effect of heart failure on the outcome of COVID-19 - A meta analysis and systematic review," showed that patients who had heart failure were at increased risk for hospital confinement, poor results, and death from COVID-19 infection.
A substantial difference in death between patients who had or had not have any heart failure was observed. As a result, those who had heart failure were found to have higher mortality.
In this research, the study authors identified more than 200 potential articles from their search and 22 of them were duplicates and eventually taken out. Following screening of the study titles and abstracts of the remaining articles, the researchers identified about 92 potentially significant articles. In their review, the study investigators found that heart failure was linked to the hospitalization in COVID-19 patients.
Heart Impairment Can Last for Months
The research shows that even some college athletes who had been allowed to return to competition after having COVID-19 infection could later present scarring in the heart.
Furthermore, there has been an argument on whether such a heart condition is because of the heart's direct infection -- a systematic inflammatory reaction that happens because of infection of the lungs.
To understand further how manner SARS-CoV-2 is interacting with the heart tissue of a human, study authors engineered heart muscle models with the use of stem cells.
These in-vitro models enabled the study investigators to ultimately show how the virus is particularly infecting heart muscles.
As a result, Lavine proposes that SARS-CoV-2 appears to affect the heart in an unusual manner unlike other viruses. While other viruses like influenza are known to impact the heart, COVID-19 is attracting a different type of immune system, which could help explain why heart impairment can last for months in COVID-19 survivors.
More Research Needed on COVID-19 Effect
Lavine and fellows from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are instantly working on developing more animal models to research more on this COVID-19 effect on the heart.
It remains unclear exactly how long such a heart damage may last, or what effect it has on an individual's future cardiovascular condition.
Lavine explains, even young individuals who suffered from mild COVID-19 symptoms can develop heart ailments later on that limit their capacity to exercise.
The researchers want to understand what's going on in order to prevent it from occurring and, eventually, to treat it.
This study was published in the JACC: Basic to Translational Science journal (SARS-CoV-2 Infects Human Engineered Heart Tissues and Models COVID-19 Myocarditis).
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