Scientists from University Hospital Frankfurt found that persistent heart inflammation might explain heart symptoms in long COVID after mild SARS-CoV-2 infection.
After recovering from a COVID infection, many people complain of persistent heart complaints, such as poor exercise tolerance, palpitations, or chest pain, even if the infection was mild and there were no known heart problems in the past.
Earlier studies were already able to show that mild cardiac inflammation can occur after COVID-19. However, the underlying cause of persistent symptoms, and whether this changes over time, was unknown.
In the study, the team followed up with 346 people—half of them women—between the age of 18 and 77 years, in each case around 4–11 months after the documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.
At the beginning of the study, 73% reported heart problems; for 57% these symptoms persisted 11 months after the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The research team measured mild but persistent heart inflammation that was not accompanied by structural changes in the heart.
Blood levels of troponin—a protein that enters the blood when the heart muscle is damaged—were also unremarkable.
The team says although triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the post-COVID cardiac inflammatory involvement differs considerably from classic viral myocarditis.
Extensive damage to the heart muscle leading to structural heart changes or impaired function is not characteristic at this stage of disease evolution.
Although most likely driven by a virus-triggered autoimmune process, a lot more research is needed in order to understand the underlying pathophysiology.
Similarly, the long-term effects of cardiac inflammation following a mild COVID infection need to be clarified in future studies.
Because the study is restricted to a selected group of individuals who took part because they had symptoms, the prevalence of findings cannot be extrapolated to the population as a whole.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about people who may not get the full benefit from COVID vaccination, and this drug is effective in treating severe COVID-19.
The research was published in Nature Medicine and conducted by Dr. Valentina Puntmann et al.
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