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COVID-19 can affect the heart

28 Sep, 2020

COVID-19 has a spectrum of potential heart manifestations with diverse mechanisms

The family of seven known human coronaviruses are known for their impact on the respiratory tract, not the heart. However, the most recent coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has marked tropism for the heart and can lead to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), necrosis of its cells, mimicking of a heart attack, arrhythmias, and acute or protracted heart failure (muscle dysfunction). These complications, which at times are the only features of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) clinical presentation, have occurred even in cases with mild symptoms and in people who did not experience any symptoms. Recent findings of heart involvement in young athletes, including sudden death, have raised concerns about the current limits of our knowledge and potentially high risk and occult prevalence of COVID-19 heart manifestations.

The four “common cold” human coronaviruses—HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-HKU1—have not been associated with heart abnormalities. There were isolated reports of patients with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS; caused by MERS-CoV) with myocarditis and a limited number of case series of cardiac disease in patients with SARS (caused by SARS-CoV) (1). Therefore, a distinct feature of SARS-CoV-2 is its more extensive cardiac involvement, which may also be a consequence of the pandemic and the exposure of tens of millions of people to the virus.

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