Kidney Injury Is A Common Complication Observed In Severe COVID-19 Patients: Experts Explain Why So

Healthy people who had never experienced any kidney-related issues are developing kidney disease after contracting COVID-19. Read on to know the reason -

COVID-19 infection can cause severe medical complications, such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and cardiovascular problems. Acute kidney injury is another common complication observed in patients with severe COVID-19. Now, biomedical engineers and virologists at Duke University have explained how COVID-19 affects the kidney.

They have shown that SARS-CoV-2 can infect kidney cells via multiple binding sites and hijack the cell's machinery to replicate, causing injury and COVID-19-associated kidney disease. The researchers reported their discovery in the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, online edition April 20.

Doctors around the world have reported cases of healthy people suddenly developing kidney disease after getting sick with COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 was known to primarily infect cells in the respiratory tract, but gradually physicians came to know that the virus was doing something to the kidneys.

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SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect and damage kidney cells

Duke University researchers revealed that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect and damage kidney cells.

According to them, the spike protein of the virus could directly bind to numerous receptors on the surface of podocytes, a specific type of kidney cell that helps control the removal of toxins and waste from the blood.

"We found that the virus was especially adept at binding to two key receptors on the surface of the podocytes, and these receptors are abundant in these kidney cells," said Titilola Kalejaiye, who is also the first author of the paper, as quoted by Science Daily.

The team observed that once the virus infected the cells, it damaged the podocytes, causing their long, finger-like structures, which help filter blood, to retract and shrivel. If the cells are severely injured, the podocytes would die. Beyond the structural damage, they saw that the virus could also hijack the machinery of the podocytes to produce additional viral particles that could spread to infect additional cells.

However, the team noted that kidney injuries are occurring less frequently with the emergence of new variants of the virus. They are planning to expand their work to study to understand if variants of SARS-CoV-2 are becoming less capable of infecting kidney cells

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