A lung study of 41 people who died from COVID-19 in Italy showed extensive damage, persistently deformed normal organ structures, scarring of respiratory tissue and coagulation of arteries and veins, This may help explain why it takes some people – the so-called “long drug addicts” – several months to recover from fatigue and difficulty breathing.
The results were announced yesterday in EBioMedicine by The Lancet Journal. While the researchers also examined brain, heart and kidney tissues, those organs showed no signs of damage or viral replication.
Led by researchers at Trieste University and King’s College London, the study involved lung analysis from February to April, found that all 41patients suffered from extensive lung damage. , while 36 out of 41 (88%) had major abnormal blood clots in pulmonary and venous arteries.
Nearly 90% of the lungs show the fusion of smaller cells into single giant cells with multiple nuclei. The fused cells, also known as the syncytium, are caused by the characteristic mutant protein of COVID-19, used by viruses to enter cells; protein stimulates the fusion of infected cells with normal lung cells, which can lead to structural changes, inflammation and abnormal blood clotting. These pathological changes have not been seen in patients with pneumonia caused by pathogens other than coronavirus, the authors said.
Persistent abnormal cells
In all patients, the COVID-19 genome is found in the respiratory cells, the cells that line the blood vessels and the cytoplasm – even in the later stages of the disease. The presence of cytoplasmic RNA-rich signals and expression of the Spike protein in the lungs 30-40 days after the diagnosis in our study showed that multiplication is increasing, the authors write. place and assume the continuing role of genetic disease of viral infection ”.
They say that the existence of virus-infected cells and the unique molecular characteristics of the coronavirus mutant protein set COVID-19 apart from other pneumoconiosis. “The findings indicate that COVID-19 is not simply a disease caused by the death of infected cells, but may be a result of these abnormal cells persisting for a long time. in the lung, “Mauro Giacca, MD, PhD, of King’s College London, said in a university newsletter.
The mean age of patients is 77 for men and 84 for women. Potential conditions include high blood pressure (17 out of 41 [41%]), chronic heart disease (13/41 [32%]), dementia (13/41 [32%]), diabetes (12/41 [29%]), and cancer (12/41 [29%]).
The team is currently evaluating the effects of abnormal cells on blood clotting and inflammation, and looking for drugs that can stop the COVID-19 spike protein and prevent cell fusion. planing.