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COVID-19 virus triggers inflammatory response in coronary vessels

A new peer-reviewed paper found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, infects the coronary vasculature and triggers inflammatory plaque responses. This research could explain why people with COVID-19 have an increased risk for coronary heart disease complications up to one year after infection.

This study probably does not explain the possible link between COVID-19 (and COVID-19 vaccines) and myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. This new study focuses on the inflammation of coronary arteries, which is quite different than the inflammation of the heart muscle.

This study adds more data to the serious risks of COVID-19, both short- and long-term. It also supports the use of vaccines to avoid these serious adverse effects of the diseases.

As I usually do, I will review the article and analyze the results for my readers.

medical stethoscope with red paper heart on white surface
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

COVID-19 infection and coronary inflammation paper

In a paper published on 28 September 2023 in Nature Cardiovascular Research, Natalia Eberhardt, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, New York University, and colleagues obtained 27 coronary autopsy specimens from eight patients who died from COVID-19, mean age 70 years and 75% male. All had coronary artery disease and most had cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, were overweight or obese, and had hyperlipidemia and type 2 diabetes. The researchers examined all of the specimens for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Here are the key results:

  • The researchers found evidence of SARS-CoV-2 viral replication in all analyzed human autopsy coronary specimens.
  • Over 90% of foam cells (lipid-laden macrophages that are a signal for atherosclerosis at all stages of cardiovascular disease) were positive for SARS-CoV-2.
  • Approximately 79% of macrophages (white blood cells that help remove lipids along with other effects in the immune system) in coronary arteries were positive for SARS-CoV-2.
  • SARS-CoV-2 induced a strong inflammatory response as evidenced by the release of cytokines (including interleukin-1 beta and interleukin-6 both of which are linked to heart attacks) in both macrophages and foam cells. This may be why patients with COVID-19 frequently have heart attacks and other ischemic heart disease.

The authors concluded that:

Our data conclusively demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 is capable of infecting and replicating in macrophages within the coronary vasculature of patients with COVID-19.

The authors added that SARS-CoV-2 preferentially replicates in foam cells compared to other macrophages, suggesting these cells “might act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 viral debris in the atherosclerotic plaque.”


To oversimplify this complex research, these researchers discovered the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cells that cause coronary inflammation which can lead to heart attacks. This means avoiding COVID-19, especially if you have comorbidities like obesity or type 2 diabetes, can reduce your risk of a heart attack after contracting the disease.

This is high-quality research that is only possible with autopsy specimens. It provides very important data with regards to the short- and long-term risks of a COVID-19 infection.


Michael Simpson
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