Nigerian-American basketball player Michael Ojo, who had recovered from Covid-19, collapsed during training and died of heart attack. Ojo was 27 years old and did not have any heart ailment earlier. Instances like these raise questions whether Covid-19 can affect the heart. Shedding some light on this topic, a paper by American cardiologist Eric Topol, published on sciencemag.org, claimed cardiac complications have occurred even in cases where Covid-19 symptoms were minimum or not present at all.
“The most recent coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has marked tropism for the heart and can lead to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), necrosis of its cells, mimicking of a heart attack, arrhythmias, and acute or protracted heart failure (muscle dysfunction),” the paper said.
“These complications, which at times are the only features of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) clinical presentation, have occurred even in cases with mild symptoms and in people who did not experience any symptoms. Recent findings of heart involvement in young athletes, including sudden death, have raised concerns about the current limits of our knowledge and potentially high risk and occult prevalence of Covid-19 heart manifestations,” it said.
The paper said in contrast to people without symptoms, there is a substantial proportion of people who suffer a longstanding, often debilitating illness, called long-Covid. Typical symptoms include fatigue, difficulty in breathing, chest pain, and abnormal heart rhythm. .
“Once recognised a few months into the pandemic, the expectation was that cardiac involvement would chiefly occur in patients with severe Covid-19. Clearly, it is more common than anticipated, but the true incidence is unknown. It is vital to determine what drives this pathogenesis. Whether it represents an individual’s inflammatory response, an autoimmune phenomenon, or some other explanation needs to be clarified,” the paper said.