Covid-19: Dr Hilary calls for return of masks as cases rise
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A study published earlier this year found that people who had the virus showed “greater cognitive decline”. Apart from the brain, your heart can also take the hit. New research has found “direct evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is toxic to heart muscle cells”, according to the lead author.
Although Covid can affect everyone differently, some of its consequences can be very serious.
Between its impacts on the brain and heart, there’s still much unknown about the virus that appeared two years ago.
However, scientists believe they have now understood why heart damage occurs in those hospitalised with COVID-19.
In a preliminary study, the research found that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spike protein is capable of causing heart muscle injury.
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This happens through an inflammatory process, which sets it apart from previously known coronaviruses.
Fortunately, the preliminary research also suggests the damage caused by this process can be reduced by vaccination.
This adds to the evidence proving the benefits of Covid vaccines and its ability to reduce severe illness.
Dr Zhiqiang Lin said: “It’s already known from the clinical side that COVID-19 infection can induce heart injury, however, what we don’t know is the mechanistic details of how this occurs.
“What we suspect is that the spike protein has unknown pathological roles.
“Our data show that the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 causes heart muscle damage.
“That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated and prevent this disease.”
The researchers also explained that the spike protein activates the natural immune response which “may also impair heart muscle cell function and even lead to cell death and heart failure”.
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While this research isn’t the first to prove Covid’s effect on the heart, it offers an explanation of why this might be happening.
The scientists tested heart cells that had been cultured in dishes in a laboratory setting.
They noticed how the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein made heart muscle cells much larger compared to cells without either spike protein.
“We found direct evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is toxic to heart muscle cells,” added Dr Lin.
However, the research team warned that their findings might not represent the full picture.
Currently, there’s a need for further studies to answer more questions.
What are the symptoms of Covid?
There’s been a rise in cases in the UK, fuelled by the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Fortunately, the new strains are thought to cause symptoms similar to their predecessor.
According to the NHS, Covid symptoms to spot include:
- High temperature or shivering (chills)
- New, continuous cough
- Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Aching body
- Sore throat
- Blocked or runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick or being sick.
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