CORONAVIRUS can damage the heart after attacking the lungs, a new study reveals.
US scientists have discovered the deadly bug can cause cardiac injuries – even in people without any underlying heart conditions.
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And they warned that Covid-19 can have fatal consequences for people with pre-existing cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension.
It comes as the number of cases of coronavirus in the UK has today risen to 14,579, with the death toll now standing at 769 deaths.
Scientists analysed previous coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS that have infected humans, as well as recent studies on the novel coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic.
And they found that coronavirus can have a devastating impact on the heart muscle.
Dr Mohammad Madjid, a lead author on the study and an assistant professor of cardiology at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Centre in Houston, Texas, said: "It is likely that, even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus.
"Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease."
Viral infections have also been known to worsen existing heart conditions such as heart attack or heart failure.
These infections can also lead to cardiac injuries such as pericarditis – inflammation of the lining of the heart – and myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle.
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The review, published in the journal Jama Cardiology, is accompanied by two other studies documenting the effects of coronavirus on the heart.
In the first one, researchers said they found a significant association between cardiac injuries and fatal outcome among Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Wuhan, China.
The second study focused on the case of a seemingly healthy 53-year-old woman in Italy who developed heart complications after testing positive for Covid-19, despite no previous history of cardiovascular disease.
Experts have said more robust studies are needed to examine the potential link between Covid-19 and cardiac injuries, while adding that the disease may be associated with a higher risk of heart muscle damage compared with other viral infections.
Commenting on the findings, Tim Chico, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the study, said: "Severe Covid-19 infection appears more likely than some other viral infections to cause damage to the heart muscle (detected by measuring a protein called Troponin in the blood).
"This heart damage is likely to be due to multiple reasons, and can happen in anyone, including those without heart disease."
Prof Chico added that it is possible to manage heart problems associated with Covid until the patient recovers.
Robert Storey, professor of cardiology at University of Sheffield, who was also not involved in the study, said there is "accumulating evidence" that Covid-19 is associated with a higher risk of heart muscle damage than most common viruses.
"An unfortunate effect of the Covid-19 crisis is that patients with heart attacks are now less likely to call for help and come into hospital to receive effective treatment," he said.
"This is a worrying trend because it is placing patients at higher risk from the heart attack due to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
"Lung infections are known to increase the risk of heart attack in the weeks after and so it is important that people do not stay at home without seeking advice or, if appropriate, calling for an ambulance to ensure they receive the most effective treatment."
And ProfessorNaveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said the potential of Covid-19 to adversely affect the heart may be one reason for high death rates with coronavirus.
Globally, there are currently nearly 600,000 cases of coronavirus with 25,000 deaths across the world in 182 countries.
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