Scientists Explain Why Some COVID-19 Patients Lose Their Sense of Smell

Henrietta Brewer
July 31, 2020

Sixty of those patients had signs of ongoing inflammation of the heart muscle.

The team, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, says the ability of younger children to spread COVID-19 has likely been under-recognized because most schools and daycares closed by late March due to the pandemic. Only now are clinicians starting to get a glimpse at the potential persistent health consequences of this new virus, and two new studies offer insights into the cardiovascular impact of COVID-19.

Initially, doctors in China described the common symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including cough, fever, and difficulty of breathing.

The immune cells of the COVID-19 patients were noted to react to different fragments of the viral envelope than the immune cells of the healthy samples: the T-helper cells of the patients recognized the spike protein in its full length, while those isolated from the healthy samples were primarily activated by sections of the spike protein which showed similarity to corresponding sections found in the spike protein of common cold coronaviruses.

The study findings certainly call for more research, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, who was not involved in the new study.

Datta added that the findings could affect the way providers treat Covid-19 patients for anosmia and other neurological symptoms associated with the disease.

Some COVID-19 sufferers, however, experience anosmia with no nasal obstruction.

The patients' median age was 85 years, and pneumonia was listed as the cause of death for 90 percent of them. "In addition to public health implications, this population will be important for targeting immunisation efforts as SARS-CoV-2 vaccines become available", the scientists concluded.

Researchers found that although youngsters only develop a mild illness, they have viral loads in their noses up to 100 times greater than adults.

Again, there is no evidence at this stage that the viral presence in heart tissue means the disease has any long-term negative cardiovascular effects.

The new Nature study isn't the only paper to suggest a certain level of pre-existing immunity among some people to the novel coronavirus. Compared to scans of similar patients who didn't have the virus, 78 had lingering heart damage and structural changes to their hearts. "It indicates that months after exposure to COVID-19, we can still detect evidence of a heart that's not completely normal".

The findings suggest that disease of nonneuronal cell types might be responsible for anosmia from COVID-19 patients and also help inform attempts to comprehend the development of the disease improved.

"But we need more data and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms to confirm this conclusion", he adds. "... if this high rate of risk is confirmed, the pathologic basis for progressive left ventricular dysfunction is validated, and especially if longitudinal assessment reveals new-onset heart failure in the recovery phase of COVID-19, then the crisis of COVID-19 will not abate but will instead shift to a new de novo incidence of heart failure and other chronic cardiovascular complications".

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