Health : what are the consequences of the coronavirus on the whole body?
Since the new SARS CoV-2 was discovered a very short time ago, the long-term effects of coronavirus on the body are still poorly understood. And even though scientists are trying to find parallels with the other two coronaviruses SARS and MERS, it takes time to fully understand the consequences and effects of coronavirus on the body.
COVID-19 can cause many symptoms that vary in severity in different people. Some people may be asymptomatic or with few mild symptoms, while others need treatment in hospital. Generally, being a respiratory virus, COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle aches. As the pandemic progressed and documented clinical cases accumulated, a new symptom appeared – partial or total loss of taste and smell. This symptom is not unusual for respiratory infections, but what is unusual is that some people have this symptom without the other usual symptoms of the infection.
Coronavirus effects don’t just affect the lungs – the infection could affect the whole body
It is now clear that the coronavirus effects do not stop in the respiratory system and some people have reported problems with the stomach and kidneys. Patients with severe symptoms have gone through what is known as a “cytokine storm” in which the body’s immune system goes into potentially fatal overdrive and leads to multiple organ failure. This has also been observed with influenza, SARS and MERS-CoV. Yes, COVID-19 is primarily known as a respiratory infection. Yet the aggressive SARS CoV-2 pathogen attacks not only the lungs, but also the heart, nerves, brain, vessels, kidneys and skin.
Of course the lungs and airways are the focal point of attention with coronavirus respiratory syndrome. Since the pathogen of the new SARS-CoV-2 primarily attacks the lower respiratory tract, infected people who have had a severe or moderate course of the disease have a dry cough, shortness of breath, or pneumonia.
There are now many indications that the coronavirus effects go beyond the attack on the lungs and the virus also attacks other organs on a large scale and can severely affect the heart, blood vessels, nerves, brain, etc. the kidneys and even the skin.
Coronavirus consequences could be very serious for the heart
Coronavirus effects on the heart
Several scientific studies and documents by countries affected by the coronavirus, including the United States, China and Italy suggest that SARS-CoV-2 also attacks the heart. The evidence is not only based on the much higher mortality in patients with COVID who also suffered from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure: Several scientific studies have also shown that patients with severe symptoms of the disease often have biomarkers. high blood released by destroyed and dying heart muscle cells. In many patients without subsequent illnesses, infection with the virus has sometimes caused myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle.
It remains to be seen whether the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 itself causes this damage to the heart or – as seems more likely – the harm is caused by immune reactions triggered by the infection. However, severe heart damage has also occurred in some patients with SARS and MERS and these pathogens SARS-CoV and MERS CoV are very closely linked to the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The lungs are often the organ most damaged by COVID-19
Coronavirus effects on the lungs
Although the lungs can recover from severe COVID-19, they can also suffer damage of varying severity. SRS-CoV-2 enters cells in the airways through the angiotensin 2 converting enzyme (ACE2) receptor, a molecule that connects the inside of our cells to the outside through the cell membrane . When this happens, some people react to the presence of the virus by producing an intense immune response known as the cytokine storm with increased blood clotting which leads to damage to cells in the lungs.
The body replaces cells damaged by the virus with scar tissue that is thick and stiff. This can result in a condition called pulmonary fibrosis which has been seen in people with COVID-19 and is more likely to develop if the lungs are severely affected by the infection. The condition can cause shortness of breath when doing activities that usually don’t require exertion. Medicines used to treat scarring can help.
It is not always clear what the impact of pulmonary fibrosis is after infection, but it could lead to long-term symptoms and a gradual decline in lung function. This is why it is important to monitor the condition in people who are suffering from severe symptoms of COVID-19. Yet other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS could help predict long-term coronavirus effects on the lungs.
SARS is known to cause pulmonary fibrosis, and large analyzes of SARS and MERS have shown impaired lung function and impaired physical capacity in people affected by these infections up to six months after discharge. the hospital. However, a 15-year follow-up of patients showed an improvement in lung function and less visible damage over time. An early study in people recovering from COVID-19 found that such damage also improved in the first few weeks after discharge from hospital.
Coronavirus effects on blood vessels
During the autopsy of patients who died from COVID-19, pathologists at the University Hospital of Zurich discovered that in some of them the entire cell layer inside the blood vessels and lymphatics of various organs a been inflamed. Scientists have concluded that the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus leads to widespread inflammation in the endothelium through ACE2 receptors. This can lead to severe microcirculatory disorders that damage the heart and cause pulmonary embolism and vascular occlusion in the brain and intestinal tract. As a result, multi-organ failure occurs which often leads to death.
Coronavirus effects on the nervous system
A review of 50 scientific studies found that SARS-CoV-2 affects almost all levels of the nervous system and can lead to strokes, seizures and aches in the muscles in those infected. Some patients with COVID-19 may have mild symptoms such as headache, dizziness, reduced alertness, and difficulty concentrating and loss of taste and smell.
Based on subsequent experiments with coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 could have an impact on the nervous system in three ways: by direct invasion, as a consequence of other medical conditions such as stroke or Guillian-Barre syndrome, or a disorder in the immune system, according to a journal published in the journal Annals of Neurology.
In over 80 percent of patients with COVID-19, a disorder in the sense of taste and smell is observed. Such ageusia or anosmia occurs early in the infection and COVID-19 can be diagnosed early on the basis of its symptoms. Indeed, in a normal influenza infection, triggered by adenoviruses, olfactory and gustatory disorders only occur at an advanced stage of the disease.
This observation, which seems trivial at first glance, however shows that in many patients the nervous system is also affected by the new coronavirus SASA CoV-2. This is because the olfactory nerve leads from the nasal mucosa through the skull bone directly into the brain. Scientific researchers from Belgium have found that nerve cells serve as a gateway for the virus to the central nervous system.
Coronavirus effects on the brain
Subsequent MRES and SARS infections have already shown similar penetration of the virus via nerves in the brain. When a patient in Japan infected with the new coronavirus showed signs of an epileptic seizure, he was diagnosed with meningitis caused by the coronavirus which entered the central nervous system.
Scientists from Japan and China are concerned that in some people, the pathogen will enter the brainstem and damage the respiratory center there. This could explain why older patients with COVID-19 in particular sometimes stop breathing without having previously had massive breathing problems due to the infection of the lungs. It is still not clear whether SARS-CoV-19 could cause stroke.
Coronavirus effects on the kidneys
If patients with COVID-19 pneumonia need ventilation, this could also damage the kidneys. Acute kidney failure occurs quite often. Since pneumonia can often cause a lot of fluid to build up in the lungs, patients are given drugs that remove fluid from the body. However, this reduces blood flow to the kidneys and they can no longer perform their cleaning functions.
In addition to this, the blood clots faster in severe cases of COVID-19. As a result, blood clots are more easily formed which then block the blood vessels and often also the kidneys. Small infections in the tissue of the kidneys have been seen in patients with pneumonia.
In about 30 percent of these patients, the kidneys are very limited to the point that dialysis is required. It is not yet clear whether the kidneys heal after the patient heals from SARS-CoV-2 or whether SARS-CoV-2 causes long-term organ damage.
Coronavirus effects on the skin
The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-19 apparently causes visible damage to the largest organ in the human body, the skin. There are reports from several countries around the world where patients with COVID-19 have shown significant damage to the skin.
Small dermatological lesions on the feet have occurred especially in children and younger people. These purple patches resemble those caused by measles, chickenpox or frostbite. On the toes, the lesions usually look like frostbite or formed reticular patterns, normally caused by blood clots in small blood vessels. Sometimes, however, marks, redness, and rashes have also been seen on other parts of the body. It is possible that the bluish discoloration of the skin is due to pathological blood clots which can also be caused by the new coronavirus.
Equally important is the coronavirus effects on a person’s general physical condition. Patients who require mechanical ventilation for a long period of time lose significant muscle mass, leaving them very weak even after their lungs have healed.
People who already have limited reserves such as the elderly can be deconditioned even after having had mild symptoms of COVID-19. This may reduce their ability to live independently, so these people will likely need specialized help.
We are only seven months after the first outbreak of COVID-19, so it is too early to say how large the long-term impacts of the infection will be. There are still many unanswered questions. Who is most at risk for the long-term effects of COVID-19? And can we avoid this?
While the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 will make a full recovery, we are likely to see more people with pulmonary fibrosis or persistent lung damage after ARDS caused by COVID-19. Many will be severely debilitated for some time after a serious infection, and some will need home oxygen. Meeting the health and long-term care needs of these people will be a daunting task.