According to a recent study published on Thursday, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can directly infect the arteries of the heart and cause the fatty plaque inside the arteries to become extremely inflammatory, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) discovered that coronary lesions removed at postmortem from severe COVID-19 cases contain detectable viral RNA from SARS-CoV-2 and proliferate there.
The levels of macrophage infiltration were correlated with the SARS-CoV-2’s preference for arterial lesions over nearby perivascular fat and its targeting of plaque macrophages.
According to a study published in the journal Nature Cardiovascular Research, SARS-CoV-2 caused a significant inflammatory response in cultured macrophages and human atherosclerotic vascular explants with the release of cytokines known to cause cardiovascular events.
According to the study, SARS-CoV-2 invades coronary vessels and causes inflammation of the plaque, which may result in short-term cardiovascular problems as well as a longer-term increase in risk.
According to the NIH, the findings may help explain why certain patients who contract COVID-19 have a higher risk of acquiring cardiovascular disease or, in the event that they already have it, more heart-related consequences.