A mild Covid-19 infection is very unlikely to cause lasting damage to the structure or function of the heart, according to a study conducted by researchers at UCL (University College London) and funded by the British Heart Foundation ( BHF) and Barts Charity.
The researchers say the results, published in JACC Cardiovascular Imaging, should reassure the public, as they concern the vast majority of people with Covid-19 infections with mild or no symptoms.
This study of 149 healthcare workers recruited by Barts Health and Royal Free London NHS Trusts is the largest and most detailed study to date on mild Covid-19 infection and its long-term impact on heart. It follows that with serious hospitalized Covid-19 infections being associated with blood clots, inflammation of the heart and heart damage, mild infections can lead to similar complications. However, until now, there has been little information specifically regarding this group of people and the effects on the heart later after infection.
Researchers identified participants with mild Covid-19 from the COVIDsortium, a study conducted at three London hospitals where healthcare workers had weekly blood, saliva and nasal swabs taken for 16 weeks. Six months after a mild infection, they examined the structure and function of the heart by analyzing cardiac MRI scans of 74 healthcare workers who had previously had mild Covid-19 and compared them to scans of 75 age-matched checks, healthy sex and ethnicity that had not previously been infected.
They found no difference in the size or amount of muscle in the left ventricle – the main chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood around the body – or in its ability to pump blood out of the heart. The amount of inflammation and scarring in the heart, as well as the elasticity of the aorta – which is important for blood to flow easily out of the heart – remained the same between the two groups.
When the researchers analyzed blood samples, they found no difference between the two markers of heart muscle damage – troponin and NT-proBNP – six months after a mild Covid-19 infection.
Now, the team of researchers and cardiologists suggest that there is little benefit to screening the hearts of people who have had a mild infection, and research should focus on those who have suffered from severe Covid-19, high-risk groups or those with persistent symptoms. .
Dr Thomas Treibel (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and Barts Health NHS Trust), said: “Unraveling the impact of Covid-19 on the heart has been a challenge. But now we are at the stage of the pandemic where we can really start to get a grip on the long term implications of Covid-19 on the health of our heart and blood vessels.
“We have been able to capitalize on our incredible frontline staff who have been exposed to the virus this year and we are happy to show that the majority of people with Covid-19 do not appear to be at increased risk. to develop future heart complications. We must now focus our attention on the long-term impact of the virus on those who have been hit hardest by the disease. “
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation and consultant cardiologist, said: “These findings a year after the start of the pandemic are welcome to reassure the hundreds of thousands of people who have experienced Covid-19 with or no symptoms.
“Throughout the pandemic, BHF researchers have made progress in studying the short and long term effects of Covid-19 on the heart and circulatory system. There is still a long way to go, but for now it looks like the good news is Covid-19 disease does not appear to be linked to lasting heart damage. “
There were small abnormalities identified by the MRI, but these were not found more often in people who had mild Covid-19 than those who never had it. The changes could have been caused by something other than the coronavirus and they may not make a noticeable difference to that person’s health.
This study was a collaboration between researchers from UCL, Barts Health NHS Trust, Queen Mary University of London and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, and the results are presented this weekend in the form of a Young Investigator Award at the EuroCMR meeting.
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