Not only lungs affected: Covid-19 affects the entire organism


Klinikdirektor Herbert Tilg bleibt dem Coronavirus auf der Spur.

© Jan Hetfleisch

Innsbruck – The coronavirus continues to astonish doctors. If Covid-19 was initially classified as a lung disease, it is becoming increasingly clear that SARS-CoV-2 can do a lot more to the body than attack the lungs. “Up to now, we have never known viruses that cause such severe systemic inflammation that all organs – from the heart to the blood vessels to the brain – can be affected,” says the internist and director of the Clinic for Internal Medicine I, Herbert Tilg , from the Innsbruck Medical University. “We found out,” he says, “that half of the Covid patients have abnormally high liver values. And the higher the liver values, the more severe the inflammation in the body. Tilg and colleagues identified diarrhea or vomiting earlier as possible early signs of Covid 19 disease.

All of these are excessive immune reactions of the body, i.e. inflammation. These in turn disrupt the complex world of intestinal germs, which contributes to the fact that the inflammation in the body can spread and the course of the disease can become more and more difficult, including death, explains the gastroenterologist Tilg.

In severe cases, cortisone is used

These findings have now led the doctors to an unusual therapeutic approach. You use the anti-inflammatory cortisone for severe Covid-19 courses. “So far there have been no viral diseases where this was used with a clear conscience,” says Tilg: “But we now have it in hospital patients who experience difficulty breathing.” If used correctly, cortisone reduces mortality.

Tilg says that the liver and intestines will recover after the illness has been overcome. Chronic damage has not yet been assumed.

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To what extent, incidentally, other infectious diseases will be pushed back this winter by better hygiene and mouth and nose protection, one can only say after the cold months, says Tilg. What is already noticeable is that there are currently hardly any cases of infection from the highly contagious noroviruses . He certainly attributes this to the increased hygiene rules. And in this respect, he also hopes that the flu will find fewer opportunities to spread this year. (is)

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