Covid-19 leaves an impact on heart: Study

Covid-19 leaves an impact on heart: Study

The findings show that Covid-19 cannot be considered as a respiratory disease alone

A large percentage of people who recover from Covid-19 face serious heart problems or damage in subsequent months, reveals a new research.

The study, which was published in the Journal of American Medical Association on July 27 and involved 100 recovered patients in Germany, is being considered by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and doctors involved in the fight against the pandemic. 

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“The findings show that Covid-19 cannot be considered as a respiratory disease alone,” said Dr Ranjan Shetty, Head of Cardiology, Manipal Hospitals.

All 100 patients involved in the study were healthy. Of them, 53% were males and the median age was 49. Sixty-seven were asymptomatic or were mild symptomatic and had recovered at home. The other 33% required hospitalisation. 

Using a combination of MRI scans, blood tests and heart tissue autopsies, the researchers found that 78% of the test subjects had developed cardiac problems. Within 60%, ongoing myocardial inflammation was found, independent of preexisting conditions. 

Viral infections hit heart

Science says that the heart is vulnerable to Covid-19 as the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes the disease, attaches itself to the ACE-2 receptors of cells, especially heart cells.

Dr Shetty cited the example of a 27-year-old Bengaluru resident whose family was identified as Covid-19 positive four days ago. “This individual had no history of heart disease and had tested negative for Covid-19. But he suddenly developed myocardial inflammation. Consequently, he was designated as a suspected Covid patient,” he said.

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“We already know that viral infections can cause myocarditis,” said Dr K S Satish, President, Karnataka Pulmonology Association, and a member of the state Covid-19 Death Audit Committee.

While an IISc molecular biologist told DH that the full scale of the virus’ effects on the human body had yet to be discovered, its impact on several organs from the gut to the brain is already documented, Dr Satish added.

"Its effect on the heart is important. In several cases, Covid patients have suffered sudden cardiac arrest and passed away,” he said.

Herd immunity

Herd immunity as a concept may also be of doubtful value by this new research, said Dr Giridhar R Babu. “Even among those who have mild or no symptoms, the long-term sequelae in terms of myocardial inflammation or cardiac arrest will have to be evaluated. A large percent of the infected population could face other health problems that warrant careful studies,” he said.

Another expert added: “Covid is already known to cause lung scarring. With this latest finding, we have to ask ourselves what will be the quality of life of patients who recover.”