LOS ANGELES – In a study published in September, researchers from Ohio State University found that of more than two dozen university athletes who tested positive for COVID-19, 30% had cellular heart damage and 15% showed signs of heart inflammation caused by a condition known as myocarditis.
After mapping the hearts of 26 Ohio State University athletes using a process known as cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR), researchers found that not only 1
“Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging has the potential to identify a high-risk cohort for undesirable outcomes and may, most importantly, risk athletes for safe participation,” the authors wrote. “Recent studies have raised concerns about myocardial infarction after recovery from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), even in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients.”
According to researchers, “myocarditis is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death in competitive athletes.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, myocarditis is usually caused by a viral infection with symptoms ranging from chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, to a negative impact on heart rate and rhythm, seen under conditions such as arrhythmias.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted on September 17: “Heart disease such as myocarditis is associated with some cases of # COVID19. Serious heart damage is rare but has occurred, even in young, healthy people.”
Medical experts have previously warned the public about links between the novel coronavirus and heart damage, especially in young people.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health explained that while COVID-19 most often affects the lungs as it is a respiratory disease, damage to the lungs can lead to serious heart complications.
Because the heart needs oxygen to function properly, COVID-19 can damage the lungs, prevent enough oxygen from reaching the heart muscle, and further restrict oxygen from reaching other important tissues in the body.
A separate report from a group of American doctors published in the medical journal JACC warned about the potential for heart damage in children from the novel coronavirus.
The report detailed the case of a 2-month-old infant diagnosed with COVID-19 who experienced a heart injury, as well as a type of heart failure most commonly seen in adults.
“Most children with Covid-19 are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, but our case shows the potential for reversible myocardial infarction (heart) damage in infants,” said Dr. Madhu Sharma, lead author of the report.
In a press release published on December 2, the medical group said that the infant recovered with normal heart function and was eventually discharged without medication for heart failure.
“The presentation and clinical course of this patient reflect four cases of acute myocardial infarction reported in adult patients with COVID-19,” said Sharma.
Another study published June 25 in the journal Cell Reports Medicine found that COVID-19 has also been known to stimulate inflammatory responses in the body that can adversely affect the function of the heart and brain.
According to the study, researchers observed SARS-CoV-2 infecting human heart cells grown from stem cells in a laboratory. Within 72 hours of infection, the virus was able to spread and replicate, killing the heart cells.
The researchers raised the particularly alarming possibility that if COVID-19 can infect the heart cells in laboratory settings, it could possibly infect the specific organs, prompting the need for a “heart-specific antiviral drug screening program”.