Paris (AFP) – Every week, it seems, the list of coronavirus symptoms — ranging from disagreeable to deadly, from “COVID toes” to toxic shock — grows longer.
What began as a familiar flu-like cluster of chills, headaches and fever has rapidly expanded over the last three months into a catalogue of syndromes affecting most of the body’s main organs.
The new coronavirus can also push the immune system into overdrive, unleashing an indiscriminate assault on pathogens and their human hosts alike.
“Most viruses can cause disease in two ways,” explained Jeremy Rossman, a senior lecturer in virology at the University of Kent.
“They can damage tissue where the virus replicates, or they can cause damage as a side effect of the immune system fighting off the disease.”
Doctors suspect, for example, that COVID-19 is behind the hospitalisation in recent weeks of more than 100 children and adolescent in New York, London and Paris diagnosed with a disorder similar to toxic shock syndrome that attacks blood vessel walls and can cause fever, vomiting and in extreme cases organ failure.
Three deaths in New York state have been attributed to so-calling paediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, with two others deemed likely.
In adults, COVID-19 had been linked in dozens of medical studies to other life-threatening symptoms, including strokes, heart damage and brain swelling.
Researchers from the urology department of Nanjing Medical University, writing last week in Nature Reviews, described patients developing severe urinary complications and acute kidney injury.
They also observed “dramatic changes” in male sex hormones.
“After recovery from COVID-19, young men who are interested in having children should receive a consultation regarding their fertility,” they advised.
– Cascading symptoms –
Does that mean that COVID-19 causes a uniquely broad array of symptoms? Not necessarily, virologists and other experts say.
“If it is a common disease, then even rare complications will happen frequently,” Babak Javid, a consultant in infectious diseases at Cambridge University Hospitals, told AFP.