Coronavirus: Scientists discover why COVID-19 causes loss of smell

Grant Boone
July 31, 2020

Anosmia, or a loss of smell, has been a common indicator of coronavirus infections, according to accounts of millions of people worldwide who have fallen victim to COVID-19. In addition, health care providers and researchers have reported finding elevated heart rates, heart attacks, heart damage, inflammation, and irregular heart rhythms in Covid-19 patients, even among patients who had no prior heart issues. More research is needed among younger patients.

Among 100 people, 78% showed some kind of cardiac involvement in MRI scans and 60% had ongoing inflammation in the heart.

The researchers found that the MRIs from many people in the group of recovered Covid-19 patients showed evidence of cardiac issues two months after the patients had recovered from the disease.

Both studies "add to an increasingly complex puzzle" when it comes to the new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, Dr. Dave Montgomery, founding cardiologist at the PREvent Clinic in Sandy Springs, Georgia, said in an email Tuesday. electronic.

Valentina O. Puntmann, MD, PhD, from the University Hospital Frankfurt in Germany, and colleagues examined the presence of myocardial injury in 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 illness (67 recovered at home; 33 required hospitalization).

As supporting cells in the olfactory epithelium, such as those that provide metabolic and structural support, lose their function, this indirectly results in changes to "olfactory sensory neurons".

But the scientists also discovered that the virus was actively replicating itself inside the tissue until the patient died.

"[COVID-19] can infect the heart and, in severe cases, the virus seems to replicate within it", study co-author Dirk Westermann, a cardiologist at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, also in Germany, told UPI.

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STAT News reports that, although it's "too soon to say if the [heart] damage in patients recovering from Covid-19 is transient or permanent ... cardiologists are worried" that the damage could lead to serious and chronic conditions such as heart failure.

The research wrote that the "findings indicate the need for ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of Covid-19". Participants' underwent MRI evaluation two to three months after being diagnosed with the virus, researchers said.

"Viruses generally have a way of reaching organs that are quite far from the original site of infection".

"Generally speaking, it is possible that cross-reactive T-helper cells have a protective effect, for instance, by helping the immune system speed up its production of antibodies against the novel virus", explained co-lead author Leif Erik Sander, MD, of Charité's medical department, division of infectious diseases and respiratory medicine. "SARS-CoV-2 is no different in this regard", he said.

Pericarditis causes inflammation of the protective tissues surrounding the heart and can cause pain, she said.

"We see the plot worsen and we are inclined to raise a new and very apparent concern that COVID-19-related cardiomyopathy and heart failure may potentially evolve as the natural history of this infection becomes clear", wrote Yancy and Fonarow in the editorial.

In the lungs, "the best available data suggests that it's probably no more than 5% of individuals with COVID will go on to develop scarring or a fibrotic condition", said James Hull, a sports respiratory specialist in London who has worked with the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health.

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