You’ve heard how the coronavirus can make you feel—feverish, short of breath, with a dry cough, for example. But do you fully know what it can do to your body? According to the latest research, the highly infectious and potentially deadly virus can wreak havoc in a few surprising ways, offering potential insight into some of the more mysterious symptoms that have arisen in patients—including stroke, blood clotting, and headaches. Read on to discover the 10 body parts most affected.
Strokes, altered consciousness, and other neurological issues have all been reported symptoms of people suffering from coronavirus. One study published in JAMA Neurology found that out of 214 patients in Wuhan, China with severe cases of coronavirus, neurologic symptoms were seen in over 36 percent. Unfortunately, experts still don’t understand the relationship. However, some believe it could be due to a direct infection of the brain, a result of reduced oxygen to the brain and other organs, or an inflammatory or immune response to the virus.
Another research team at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany performed autopsies on 27 patients who died from COVID-19, publishing their findings in a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine. While they detected the virus in several organs—including the lungs, pharynx, heart, liver, and brain—they noted that the virus really thrived in the kidneys. “A greater number of coexisting conditions was associated with SARS-CoV-2 tropism for the kidneys, even in patients without a history of chronic kidney disease,” they wrote in the letter, explaining that “renal tropism” can explain some of the mysterious COVID-19 kidney injury symptoms in patients—even with those who aren’t seriously ill.
It’s no secret that the lungs are ground zero for COVID-19 infection. The virus is spread via tiny droplets, entering the body through the nose and mouth and further spread into the airways. In many cases, the lungs suffer inflammation. These inflammatory cells infiltrate the lung and result in fluid accumulation, and this is what causes one of the most common symptoms, shortness of breath.
The novel coronavirus is famous for causing inflammation throughout the body—including the heart. This is why the CDC warns that older people with heart disease are at high risk for infection and serious illness. “COVID-19, like other viral illnesses such as the flu, can damage the respiratory system and make it harder for your heart to work,” they explain. “For people with heart failure and other serious heart conditions this can lead to a worsening of COVID-19 symptoms.”
The CDC also warns that people with liver disease are at higher risk for COVID-19. “Severe illness caused by COVID-19 and the medications used to treat some severe consequences of COVID-19 can cause strain on the liver, particularly for those with underlying liver problems,” they explain. “People living with serious liver disease can have a weakened immune system, leaving the body less able to fight COVID-19.”
The CDC recently added “sore throat” to the list of potential COVID-19 symptoms. According to a February courtesy of the World Health Organization, out of 55,924 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China, approximately 13.9% suffered inflammation or infection in the throat region.
“COVID toes” are one of the more curious coronavirus symptoms. These lesions, found on the toes of children and young adults, could possibly be due to blood clots or blood flow, or an immune system reaction.
Conjunctivitis, aka pink eye, is another symptom of coronavirus. “Several reports suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can cause a mild follicular conjunctivitis otherwise indistinguishable from other viral causes, and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology recently said in a statement.
According to experts, COVID can manifest itself in the skin. Rashes as a result of the virus have been reported, some as small blisters, morbilliform (“measles-like”) exanthems (symmetric, pink-to-red bumps that can join), and also hives (itchy red wheels on the skin).
One report courtesy of Jie Zhou and colleagues at the University of Hong Kong published in Nature Medicine found the virus in the fecal matter of patients, warning it could be spread via fecal matter. Interested in how the virus could survive and thrive in the intestines, the researchers grew lab dish version of intestines—from both bats and people—finding that COVID-19 didn’t just live in the organs, it replicated in them.
“The human intestinal tract might be a transmission route of SARS-CoV-2,” reads the report. They presented proof of stool specimen taken from a 68-year-old with the virus.
“Here we demonstrate active replication of SARS-CoV-2 in human intestinal organoids and isolation of infectious virus from the stool specimen of a patient with diarrheal COVID-19,” they explained.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.