‘Scary’ COVID-19 heart studies showing inflammation raise doubts, concerns from experts - watsupptoday.com
‘Scary’ COVID-19 heart studies showing inflammation raise doubts, concerns from experts
Posted 30 Sep 2020 05:16 PM


The academic journal JAMA Cardiology published a paper showing that 78 out of 100 study participants had abnormalities typically seen in a potentially life-threatening heart condition. Their hearts had been imaged roughly two months after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. And while two-thirds of the group had suffered mild or no symptoms, medical scans showed fluid and scarring — signs of heart inflammation, or myocarditis.

These findings, among others, “indicate the need for ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of Covid-19,” wrote the authors, who are based in Germany at University Hospital Frankfurt.

Not everyone was impressed with the paper. The day after it published, scientists identified statistical errors, which the research team went on to correct. Another noted that the study’s controls — people who hadn’t been infected with the virus — also showed inflammation on their heart scans.

But those conversations were unfolding among small groups of scientists on Twitter. Meanwhile, colleges across the country struggled with a vexing question: Was it safe to move forward with fall sports? The study caught their eye because of the rare but devastating possibility of sudden cardiac death in athletes and soon, high-profile media outlets were credulously citing the study as one of the hurdles for a fall season.

But over the course of roughly a dozen interviews by Undark withphysicians and researchers specializing in cardiac radiology, cardiac pathology, and sports cardiology, several expressed concerns over the limitations of the German research, and with a more recent heart imaging study published by a team at The Ohio State University. Some also shared deep misgivings about how the findings of these small studies are being interpreted, reported, and used in the wider world. September’s media coverage has been more circumspect, but these preliminary findings are already being used to guide treatment of virus-positive athletes.

While the experts agreed that COVID-19 can harm the heart, the severity and frequency of the outcomes, as well as how to test for myocarditis, is under fierce debate.

The nuances of the myocarditis studies have been largely absent from the broader public conversation. In the month of August, the German paper was often cited in coverage of college sports. And though the OSU paper had not yet been published, its preliminary findings were shared with major athletic conferences as they deliberated about the fall season. The New York Times reported that the OSU study had already revealed an “alarmingly high rate of myocarditis” among recovered college athletes, almost all of whom had experienced mild or no Covid-19 symptoms. The article quoted the university’s director of sports cardiology, Curt Daniels: “Everybody is saying now that maybe we should do cardiac MRIs.”

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