A study published on Friday by scientists based in the northern German city of Hamburg found out that the novel coronavirus is able to infect and multiply in patients’ heart cells.
The study by researchers at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) found that the virus is not only able to invade heart cells but is also capable of altering their gene activity.
Authors said it was too early to tell whether this would mean the virus would take a different course in patients with heart conditions, the study’s lead author Dirk Westermann said in a statement.
Alterations to gene activity in heart cells could have long-term health consequences, the study found, and recommended mass screenings be conducted of virus survivors in future.
The study examined the bodies of 39 patients with heart conditions who had died while infected with coronavirus. The patients had an average age of 85 at their time of death.
Researchers detected the virus in the heart tissue of around two-thirds of the patients. In 16 cases the virus was present in concentrations high enough to have had a clinical effect, UKE said.
The study results are set to be published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.