A new study looked at how COVID-19 infection can cause major inflammation in the body.
The novel coronavirus can infect immune cells that will trigger a massive inflammatory response and create severe COVID-19 symptoms, according to new research.
Details: Two new studies — one published in the journal Nature and another available on a preprint server — found that the immune cells infected by the coronavirus can cause severe inflammation.
Research since the beginning of the pandemic has suggested inflammation creates respiratory issues and organ damage.
Now, the researchers found that coronavirus can infect white blood cells — macrophages in the lungs, and monocytes in the blood — which then trigger the inflammation.
Behind the scenes: The cells normally absorb the virus and treat it so that the virus doesn’t infect other cells, per CNN.
The novel coronavirus, though, “escapes into the body of the cell, where it starts making copies of itself,” per CNN.
So when a virus infects defense cells, it sets off alarms in the body. From there, inflammasomes emerge and start to kill off those cells in a process called pyroptosis.
What they said: “The viruses not only get taken up, but once they get taken up, the virus starts replicating, so that was surprising,” research leader Dr. Judith Lieberman, a pediatric immunologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told CNN.
“When cells die by pyroptosis, they release all kinds of inflammatory proteins that cause fever and summon more immune cells to the site,” Lieberman told CNN.
“We don’t have any way of treating that once it gets started. It’s just sort of like a little fire. It spreads and explodes and no fire extinguisher is capable of putting it out,” she said, per CNN.