This episode of SICK answers just what it is about the COVID-19 virus that makes it give such a variety of symptoms and what we still seek to understand about its impact.
Special thank you to the Cleveland Clinic for filming this interview for Seeker.
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When a patient is first infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it’s usually inhaled and it begins to infect cells in the respiratory tract and produces more and more virus.
From here the virus can work its way into tiny air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs are filled with a protein receptor called ACE2. This is what the virus uses to break into cells where it can replicate and spread.
Researchers have compiled a more exhaustive list including skin problems, a loss of smell or taste, and even neurological symptoms.
It can harm the lungs, the kidneys, and even the circulatory system. And what about those purple COVID toes?
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The Pathogenesis of COVID-19 from a cell biology perspective
Although much is known about the mortality of the clinical disease, much less is known about its pathobiology. Although details of the cellular responses to this virus are not known, a probable course of events can be postulated based on past studies with SARS-CoV. Based on the cells that are likely infected, COVID-19 can be divided into three phases that correspond to different clinical stages of the disease.
Organ-by-organ, see how the coronavirus can attack the body
Initially, experts thought COVID-19 was primarily a respiratory illness, infecting the nose, throat, and lungs, like flu viruses. Now, it’s clear that this new germ can harm the brain, heart, circulatory system, liver, pancreas, and kidneys, as well as the lungs. Here is an organ-by-organ tour of what the coronavirus can do to the human body.
What Does COVID Do to Your Blood?
When SARS-CoV-2 enters the lungs, it invades cells in the air sacs that transfer oxygen to the blood. Surrounding those sacs are capillaries lined like bricks with endothelial cells. The virus directly invades some of those cells; others become “activated,” likely in response to signals from the invading virus and other damaged cells. Some infected cells likely commit suicide. “It’s not a quiet death where the cell just dies,” Mangalmurti says. “All the contents leak out.”
SICK is a new series that looks at how diseases actually work inside our body. We’ll be visiting medical centers and talking to top researchers and doctors to uncover the mysteries of viruses, bacteria, fungi and our own immune system.
Seeker empowers the curious to understand the science shaping our world. We tell award-winning stories about the natural forces and groundbreaking innovations that impact our lives, our planet, and our universe.
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