International institutions, including Imperial College London, have so far identified likely initial infection points for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) in the nose and eyes. Receptors were also found in the intestines and in vital organs such as the heart.
Heart tissue damage and consequent heart failure is observed in up to 20 percent of COVID-19 patients.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, highlight two specific cell types in the nose – called goblet and ciliated cells, as likely initial infection points for COVID-19. These cells have high levels of the entry proteins that the COVID-19 virus uses to get into human cells.
SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus requires two key proteins, called ACE2 and TMPRSS2, to enter human cells. The first is a receptor protein that the virus can dock to, while the second is a so-called protease that activates viral entry into the cell.
These findings are particularly significant when we consider the implications for preventative medicine and our ability to further combat and contain the spread.