Although SARS-CoV-2 infections primarily attack the lungs, in many cases they can also damage other organs, such as the colon: approximately 60% of patients have suffered impacts to the digestive tract. Researchers from MedUni Vienna analyzed the manifestations of Covid-19 in the lungs and colon and identified the differences at the molecular level. Their findings, recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, form the basis for the identification of new biomarkers and the development of novel treatment strategies.
The scientific team, led by Diana Mechtcheriakova from the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research at MedUni Vienna, studied the singularities and commonalities of the impact of Covid-19 on the lungs and other organs. Using analyzes of complex datasets, the researchers recognized that a different molecular mechanism is at work in the pulmonary and gastrointestinal manifestations. While SARS-CoV-2 infections of the lungs evoke classic immune system responses, in the gastrointestinal tract they evoke responses related to hepatic and lipid metabolism.
Better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 responses
The fact that SARS-CoV-2 infections manifest not only in the lungs, but also frequently in other organs, such as the heart, kidneys, skin or intestine, can be attributed to the structure specific to the virus. During the course of Covid-19, up to 60% of patients present with gastrointestinal symptoms, which may be associated with a longer duration of the disease and/or a more unfavorable course. The results of this study will contribute to our understanding of the organ- and tissue-specific molecular processes triggered by SARS-CoV-2. “Our findings may advance the identification of new biomarkers and treatment strategies for Covid-19, taking into account specific responses in manifestations outside the lung,” says Diana Mechtcheriakova, head of the systems biology research group molecular and pathophysiology at MedUni Vienna, holding the prospect of promising follow-up studies.