According to a recent study published in Immunology, COVID-19 affects the body in a completely different way than the flu does by damaging the heart’s DNA.
The study examined the hearts of individuals who passed away as a result of the flu, COVID-19, and other causes. The results might reveal why coronavirus has caused consequences including lingering cardiac problems.
According to Arutha Kulasinghe, a research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia and one of the lead study authors, “we identified a lot of DNA damage that was specific to the COVID-19 patients, which wasn’t present in the flu patients.”
In this investigation, COVID-19 and flu appear to have very distinct effects on the heart, the researcher concluded.
Seven patients with COVID-19, two patients with the flu, and six patients who passed away from other causes had their hearts examined by Kulasinghe and colleagues. They examined the patient’s cardiac tissue using transcriptomic profiling, which examines the DNA landscape of an organ.
He and his colleagues anticipated seeing severe cardiac inflammation because of earlier research about heart issues linked to COVID-19. Instead, scientists discovered that indicators for DNA damage and repair were significantly stronger and that inflammation signals had been repressed in the heart. The underlying reason is yet unknown to them.
The signs point to DNA damage rather than inflammation, according to Kulasinghe. “We need to figure out something else that’s going on.”
He said that the damage was similar to how cardiac tissue exhibits DNA damage signals in chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer.
Kulasinghe expressed the expectation that next research would build on the findings to create risk models that would identify which patients would be more susceptible to severe COVID-19 issues. This might then enable medical professionals to start treatment sooner. All seven COVID-19 patients, for instance, had other chronic conditions such diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
“Ideally, in the future, we will be able to risk-stratify individuals when they are diagnosed,” he said. “If you have cardiovascular disease, are obese, or have other issues, and you have a signature in your blood that says you are at risk of severe disease.”
Due to the tiny sample size, Kulasinghe stated that the research is just at an early stage. This kind of research is frequently challenging to carry out since, in order to examine the effects on dead tissues, researchers must wait for the availability of organs and obtain consent from families for post-mortem autopsies and biopsies.
Now, he continued, “our issue is to draw a clinical finding from this, which we can’t at this time. However, we are witnessing [between COVID-19 and flu] a truly basic biological difference that needs to be confirmed by larger investigations.