Coronaviruses and heart health
A recent review examines the relationship between coronaviruses and the cardiovascular system. Although information about SARS-CoV-2, specifically, is scant, the authors believe that research into other coronaviruses might provide insight.
A type of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19, an illness infamous for its effects on the lungs and airways.
However, as the authors of the latest review — which features in the journal JAMA Cardiology — explain, acute respiratory infections “are well-recognized triggers for cardiovascular diseases.”
For instance, scientists have shown that influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and bacterial pneumonia can affect cardiovascular health and increase the severity of the condition. In fact, the authors explain, “during most influenza epidemics, more patients die of cardiovascular causes than pneumonia-influenza causes.”
As our understanding of COVID-19 is still evolving, the authors reference earlier research on similar coronavirus outbreaks, including studies investigating severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
SARS and cardiovascular health
Like SARS-CoV-2, scientists believe that the virus that causes SARS also originated in bats. In 2003, 8,096 people in 29 countries developed SARS. As the authors explain, the sparsity of evidence makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the impact of SARS on cardiovascular health.
The largest study that the authors outline included just 121 people with a SARS diagnosis.
The authors of the 2006 study concluded: “In patients with SARS, cardiovascular complications, including hypotension and tachycardia [an abnormally fast heartbeat], were common but usually self-limiting. […] However, only tachycardia persisted even when corticosteroid therapy was withdrawn.”
MERS and cardiovascular health
MERS results from another coronavirus, again, apparently originating in bats. The epidemic began in Saudi Arabia in June 2012. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2019, there had been almost 2,500 confirmed cases and more than 850 deaths in 27 countries.
Evidence of cardiovascular factors for MERS appears to be even more difficult to find than it is for SARS. However, one analysis of 637 individuals with a diagnosis of MERS did offer some insight.
The researchers found that cardiac diseases were present in 30% of the people who took part in the trial.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that MERS causes cardiovascular issues. Instead, it might indicate that people with these existing conditions were more likely to develop symptoms of MERS or less able to fight off the infection.
Current Trends in Cardiology