A study at the University of San Diego claims to have proof that COVID-19 is not a respiratory illness, but a vascular one.
This could explain blood clots in some COVID patients and other issues like “COVID feet”, which are not classic symptoms of a respiratory illness.
The study, published in the journal Circulation Research, shows with precision how virus damages the cells of the vascular system.
It was already known that besides the various symptoms of COVID-19 that coincide with respiratory problems, there are other cardiovascular issues that affect other parts of the body.
What’s new is the team conducting the study, which included scientists from the SALK Institute, showed the form in which the virus attacks the vascular or circulatory system.
The S protein of the virus, the spike that forms the crown, attacks the receptor ACE2, damaging the mitocondrias that generate the energy of the cells, thus damaging the endothelium, which lines the blood vessel.
This is something that has already been observed, but what wasn’t previously known is the exact mechanism and role of the S protein.
This protein is replicated by all of the currently available vaccines.
The scientists created a pseudovirus for the study, which only had the S protein but not the rest of the virus, to show in the lab that this protein is enough by itself to cause disease.
The effects on the respiratory system are a consequence of the inflammation of the vascular tissue in the lungs.
“A lot of people think of it as a respiratory disease, but it’s really a vascular disease,” says assistant research professor Uri Manor, who is co-senior author of the study.
“That could explain why some people have strokes, and why some people have issues in other parts of the body. The commonality between them is that they all have vascular underpinnings.”
Only an effect in serious cases?
Professor Rafael Máñez Mendiluce, who has been treating COVID-19 patients for a year as head of intensive care at Bellvitge University Hospital, says this is no surprise, given the clinical pictures presented by those who come to his department.
A year ago, he explained to us that the greatest risk of COVID-19 was the inflammatory symptoms presented by the patients.