A new aspect of the Wuhan Coronavirus has emerged. According to doctors, a significant portion of the patients of the Chinese Coronavirus has sustained heart damage. It is not yet clear whether the heart damage is due to the virus itself or if it is a consequence of the body’s reaction to the infection. In addition to lung damage, many patients of SARS-CoV-2 are developing heart problems and dying of cardiac arrest, Kaiser Health News has reported.
An initial study has reportedly discovered heart damage in as many as 1 in 5 cases, leading to heart failure and death even when there are no signs of respiratory distress. With more data coming in, experts in the field are coming to believe that the virus does infect the heart muscle as well. But determining whether the virus causes the damage or the body’s reactions do is difficult because severe illness alone can influence the health of the heart.
“Someone who’s dying from a bad pneumonia will ultimately die because the heart stops,” said Dr. Robert Bonow, a professor of cardiology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and editor of the medical journal JAMA Cardiology. “You can’t get enough oxygen into your system and things go haywire.” Bonow is one of the heart specialists who believe there are four or five pathways for a COVID-19 infection to damage the heart. But Bonow said that the damage could be a result of the virus directly infecting the heart. Initial research indicates the Wuhan Coronavirus attaches to certain receptors in the lungs that are found in heart muscle as well.
Patients with heart diseases were much more likely to show heart damage afterwards but some patients with no previous heart disease also showed damage. It was also observed that patients with no preexisting heart conditions who incurred heart damage during their infection were more likely to die than patients with previous heart disease but no COVID-19-induced cardiac damage. The cause of it isn’t entirely clear yet but genetic predispositions or exposure to higher viral loads is suspected.
Doctors have also warned that the Chinese Coronavirus could cause brain damage in some infected patients by triggering inflammation that can lead to bleeding and the death of cells. A woman in her 50s from Detroit had lost big chunks of brain cells and similar issues of the central nervous system have been reported from Italy and China. Studies from 2002 and 2003 on the SARS virus, with which SARS-CoV-2 shares great genetic similarity, had found virus particles inside brain cells, including the cells in the brainstem that regulate breathing. The mechanism of the virus that helps it infect brain cells, however, is not properly understood yet.
In addition to these, it is also suspected that the Wuhan Coronavirus could cause long term or permanent damage even among patients who have made a full recovery. The virus is also believed to adversely impact male fertility and cause damage to testicles although it is believed to be temporary as of now. Long term damage to lungs and reduced lung activity has also been observed among those who have recovered from the infection.