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Covid-19 infection can cause structural changes in lungs: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 04, 2020 Published on November 04, 2020

Covid-19 positive patients can experience symptoms such as blood clotting, loss of smell and taste

A study published in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine, by King’s College London, suggested that a significant amount of lung damage has been observed in patients who died due to coronavirus infection.

The study was carried out in collaboration with the University of Trieste and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biology in Italy.

Their study threw light on unique characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus where the researchers tried to explain why patients suffer from ‘long Covid’.

The researchers wrote in their study that Covid-19 positive patients can experience symptoms such as blood clotting and loss of smell and taste.

Also read: SARS-CoV-2 can’t penetrate eyes’ cornea, study finds

Some experience the persistence of these symptoms for months ― known as ‘long Covid’ ― with a feeling of fatigue and lack of breath.

For the study, the researchers examined the organs of 41 patients who died of Covid-19 at the University Hospital of Trieste, Italy, from February to April 2020.

The team collected virus samples from the lung, heart, liver, and kidney to examine the behaviour of the virus.

Their findings revealed extensive lung damage in most cases. Patients who had their lungs damaged experienced profound disruption of the normal lung structure and the transformation of respiratory tissue into fibrotic material.

Almost 90 per cent of patients showed two additional characteristics that were quite unique to Covid-19, compared to other forms of pneumonia.

The researchers noted that first, patients showed extensive blood clotting of the lung arteries and veins (thrombosis). Second, several lung cells were abnormally large and had many nuclei, resulting from the fusion of different cells into single large cells. This may also lead to inflammation and thrombosis.

Notably, the researchers found the long-term persistence of the viral genome in respiratory cells and in cells lining the blood vessels, along with the infected cell syncytia.

Also read: Role of super spreading events in Covid-19 transmission is much bigger than thought: Study

The report said that the presence of these infected cells can cause the major structural changes observed in the lungs. These changes can linger for several weeks or months and could eventually explain ‘long Covid’.

The study found no overt signs of viral infection or prolonged inflammation in other organs.

Professor Mauro Giacca, at the British Heart Foundation Centre at King’s College London, said, “These findings are very exciting. The findings indicate that Covid-19 is not simply a disease caused by the death of virus-infected cells but is likely the consequence of these abnormal cells persisting for long periods inside the lungs.”

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Published on November 04, 2020
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