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Understand how the new coronavirus can cause kidney problems

Publicado em 11 setembro 2021

Scientists around the world have discovered the possible impacts that Covid-19 has on the human body. Although it is a respiratory transmitted disease, the damage caused by the new coronavirus infection can have a greater extent than the damage to the lung and respiratory tract.

Research conducted by specialists at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) showed that SARS-CoV-2 is also capable of causing kidney damage. The review study brought together several scientific findings to assemble the puzzle that explains how the virus can lead to serious problems with the kidney system. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.

Kidney damage is the result of the interaction of the virus with an enzyme

The researchers estimate that the key may lie in the virus’s interaction with an important enzyme present in the human body. When a person becomes infected, the new coronavirus must interact with an enzyme called the “angiotensin 2 converter” (ACE2, its acronym in English). It allows the virus to enter human cells and initiate the replication process, which is critical to the infection process.

What the Unifesp researchers found is that this specific enzyme is also capable of inducing an imbalance in other systems in the body, including the one responsible for regulating blood pressure (called renin-angiotensin) and another that is involved in various biological processes (called kallikrein-kinin). Although the names seem complicated, the result is simple: the enzyme influences the processes of inflammation, blood pressure control and cell proliferation.

With this information, scientists understand that compromised ACE2 enzyme functions can reduce blood flow and the kidney’s ability to filter. Changes in kidney function can make it difficult to eliminate substances that, in excess, can be toxic to the body.

In addition, with increased contraction of blood vessels (vasoconstriction), there is an overload and impairment of renal function. According to the study, the incidence of acute kidney injury can range from 20% to 40% of patients with Covid-19.

(With information from FAPESP Agency)