Thursday, April 2, 2020

How Coronavirus Destroys Human Lungs. Can Lung Transplant Protect Us From COVID-19

How Coronavirus Destroys Human Lungs?

The coronavirus destroys the human lungs through what's called a cytokine storm. Cytokine storm refers to the overreaction of your body's immune system. Cytokines are small proteins released by different types of cells in the body.



These proteins signal to immune cells to come to the site of infection. They also allow your immune cells to coordinate their response against the virus. The immune response facilitated by cytokines and immune cells triggers inflammation.

Sometimes the body produces large amounts of cytokines during an infection. This storm of cytokines causes a huge burden to your immune system forcing it to send more and more immune cells to the site infection. This leads to hyper-inflammation, which could eventually kill the patient.

The coronavirus enters into the lungs until it reaches the lower respiratory tract. That is where tiny air sacs, called alveoli, are located. Alveoli are regions in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.

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Because of the cytokine storm, the immune system begins to destroy the alveoli. More and more immune cells are recruited into the site of infection. This causes the linings of your lungs to become thicker than normal. Leading to pneumonia, an illness characterized by breathing difficulty and dry cough.

The hyper-inflammation triggered by the cytokine storm forces your immune cells to destroy healthy cells in the lining of your lungs. This makes your lungs more vulnerable to bacterial infections. Researchers called this a Secondary Bacterial Pneumonia.

Your lung could be overwhelmed by bacteria that are not normally lethal. Once your lungs become less functional by the excessive immune response. Other organs such as the liver, kidney, and brain become deprived of oxygen.

Eventually, patients require ventilators to receive enough supply of oxygen. In some cases, the immune system overcomes the cytokine storm and carefully coordinates its attack against the infection. Leading to higher chances of survival, which occurs with young COVID-19 patients.

People who are older than 60, or have a weak immune system or a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, heart disease or underwent chemotherapy treatment are less likely to survive the immune system overdrive caused by the cytokine storm.

In addition to COVID-19, researchers believe that the process of cytokine storm may have also been a major cause of mortality during the 1918 Spanish flu and the H1N1 "Swine Flu" and H5N1 "Bird Flu" of recent years.

A patient with COVID-19 infection received a double lung transplant. The 5-hour procedure was performed by doctors in China. The lungs were obtained from a "brain-dead donor."

The 59-year old male patient's lungs were seriously damaged by COVID-19. The patient tested negative for the coronavirus after the lung transplant. Even with a lung transplant, the risk of coronavirus infection remains plausible.

After a lung transplant, you will be given immunosuppressants. These medications suppress your immune system so it does not reject the new organ. They must be taken for the rest of your life.

These immunosuppressants weaken and disturb your immune system. This increases your risk of infections, which may also include COVID-19. If the organ receiver does not take extreme self-protection measures such as self-isolation, social distancing, and regular hand washing, the risk of reinfecting the new lungs with the coronavirus remains high.

Not everyone infected with coronavirus is eligible for a lung transplant. The doctors note that other organs of the patient must function normally and the body must be able to withstand the lung transplantation.

Can Lung Transplant Protect Us From COVID-19?

A patient who receives a lung transplant following COVID-19 infection must remain under regular care by health professionals who will perform anti-rejection follow-up treatments. One major problem with this approach is the lack of enough organ replacements which makes lung transplant exclusive to only certain patients.

People with pre-existing medical conditions such as long-term lung damage are more likely to be severely affected by COVID-19. The lungs are the main target of the coronavirus. The virus infects epithelial cells in the lining of the lung.

Inside the cell, the virus begins to replicate until it destroys the cell. The infection then makes its way to the lower respiratory tract. The virus continues to replicate inside the airways, thus destroying more cells. This leads to severe pneumonia (shortness of breath) along with a cough. A recent report showed that patients who recover from COVID-19 are more likely to lose up to 30% of their lung function and are left gasping for breath when they walk quickly.

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