Myocardial injury and COVID-19: Possible mechanisms

Life Sci. 2020 Jul 15;253:117723. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2020.117723. Epub 2020 Apr 28.


Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has quickly progressed to a global health emergency. Respiratory illness is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in these patients with the disease spectrum ranging from asymptomatic subclinical infection, to severe pneumonia progressing to acute respiratory distress syndrome. There is growing evidence describing pathophysiological resemblance of SARS-CoV-2 infection with other coronavirus infections such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Angiotensin Converting Enzyme-2 receptors play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of the virus. Disruption of this receptor leads to cardiomyopathy, cardiac dysfunction, and heart failure. Patients with cardiovascular disease are more likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and they are more likely to develop severe symptoms. Hypertension, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy and coronary heart disease are amongst major cardiovascular disease comorbidities seen in severe cases of COVID-19. There is growing literature exploring cardiac involvement in SARS-CoV-2. Myocardial injury is one of the important pathogenic features of COVID-19. As a surrogate for myocardial injury, multiple studies have shown increased cardiac biomarkers mainly cardiac troponins I and T in the infected patients especially those with severe disease. Myocarditis is depicted as another cause of morbidity amongst COVID-19 patients. The exact mechanisms of how SARS-CoV-2 can cause myocardial injury are not clearly understood. The proposed mechanisms of myocardial injury are direct damage to the cardiomyocytes, systemic inflammation, myocardial interstitial fibrosis, interferon mediated immune response, exaggerated cytokine response by Type 1 and 2 helper T cells, in addition to coronary plaque destabilization, and hypoxia.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Coronavirus Disease 2019; Mechanisms of myocardial injury; Myocardial injury; Myocarditis; Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / physiology*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Myocarditis / virology
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / pathology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / virology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology*
  • SARS-CoV-2