SARS-CoV-2 does much more damage to the human body than initially assumed. It can attack any number of organs and even penetrates the brain. But why do some people experience worse symptoms than others?
By Philip Bethge
The pathogen has already done a fair bit of damage. It has only been five days since the patient began exhibiting typical COVID-19 symptoms, but already, menacing shadows can be seen in the CT scans of the lungs.
“It’s like frosted glass,” is how Christian Strassburg, a professor of internal medicine at the Bonn University Hospital, describes the changes made visible by the scan. “The lung tissue is saturated with fluid.” Secretions and dead cells are gumming up the walls of the pulmonary alveoli “like Jell-O,” he says.
“It is extremely difficult for oxygen to permeate a layer like that to get from the lung into the bloodstream,” the professor explains. It is a phenomenon he has been seeing frequently in recent weeks and it is caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients worldwide is now well over 4.2 million and the number of deaths is approaching 300,000. Meanwhile, doctors and biologists are doing all they can to gain a better understanding of the pathogen behind the pandemic.