Science

Mild Covid-19 infection unlikely to cause lasting heart damage: Study

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 10, 2021

In blood samples, researchers found no differences in the two markers of heart muscle damage - troponin and NT-proBNP - six months after mild Covid-19 infection

A mild Covid-19 infection is highly unlikely to cause lasting damage to the structure or function of the heart, according to a study led by UCL (University College London) researchers and funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Barts Charity.

The study has been published in JACC Cardiovascular Imaging.

The study included 149 healthcare workers recruited from Barts Health and Royal Free London NHS Trusts. Researchers wished to study the long term impact of a mild Covid-19 infection on the heart following concerns that severe hospitalised Covid-19 infections are associated with blood clots, inflammation of the heart and heart damage and that mild infections may lead to similar complications.

“Researchers identified participants with mild Covid-19 from the COVIDsortium, a study in three London hospitals where healthcare workers had undergone weekly samples of blood, saliva and nasal swabs for 16 weeks,” as per an official release from UCL published in the journal EurekAlert!

They looked at the structure of the heart and its function after six months post the mild infection, by analysing heart MRI scans of 74 healthcare workers with prior mild Covid-19 and compared them to the scans of 75 healthy age, sex and ethnicity matched controls who had not previously been infected.

Research findings

Researchers found no difference in the size or amount of muscle of the left ventricle. It is the main chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood around the body. There was also no impact on the ability to pump blood out of the heart.

“The amount of inflammation and scarring in the heart, and the elasticity of the aorta - which is important for blood to easily flow out of the heart - remained the same between the two groups,” the report said,

As the researchers analysed blood samples, they found no differences in the two markers of heart muscle damage - troponin and NT-proBNP - six months after mild Covid-19 infection.

Dr Thomas Treibel (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and Barts Health NHS Trust), said, "Disentangling the impact Covid-19 has on the heart has been a challenge. But we're now at the stage of the pandemic where we can really start to get a grip on the longer-term implications Covid-19 has on the health of our heart and blood vessels.”

"We've been able to capitalise on our incredible frontline staff who've been exposed to the virus this past year and we're pleased to show that the majority of people who've had Covid-19 seem to not be at increased risk of developing future heart complications. We now need to focus our attention on the long term impact the virus has in those who've been hit hardest by the disease."

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation and consultant cardiologist, said, "These findings one year on from the start of the pandemic are welcome reassurance to the hundreds of thousands of people who have experienced Covid-19 with mild or no symptoms.”

"There's still a lot more work to be done, but for now it seems the good news is that mild Covid-19 illness does not appear to be linked to lasting heart damage," the doctor said.

Certain small abnormalities had been identified by MRI but these were not found more often in people who had mild Covid-19 than those that have never had it.

Something other than coronavirus may have caused the changes and they may not make any noticeable difference to the health of that person,as per the report.

Published on May 10, 2021

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