Subvariants impact organs differently than original COVID-19, health expert says

Two years into the pandemic, scientists have discovered that COVID-19 is impacting organs in the body differently than it was in March of 2020.
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By , KCBS Radio

Two years into the pandemic, scientists have discovered that COVID-19 is impacting organs in the body differently than it was in March of 2020.

Dr. Timothy Plante, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, broke down the intricate variations in the coronavirus evolution to KCBS Radio's "Ask An Expert."

"What we've seen over the development of COVID-19 is this change in how the virus affects people," he said. "That's a medical term called a tropism, meaning how does a virus or bacteria affect various organs in the body. It turns out, as we've seen COVID evolve, the tropism has changed."

When suffering from the original COVID-19 strain, patients experience many lung-related issues, leading them to be on ventilators with respiratory failure and low oxygen numbers.

Now, the virus has moved from the lower lung — where it causes pneumonia — to the upper bronchial tree and in the mouth, Plante explained.

"One of the main things that caused people early in the pandemic to wind up in the hospital was the fact that they needed hospital level care because of low oxygen," he said. "Folks are still getting a cough, folks are still hacking away, but the oxygen numbers don’t seem to get quite as hit."

Even though subvariants of coronavirus -- such as omicron, BA.2 or BA.2.12.1 -- are less likely to affect the lungs, it doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet. "What we know about COVID," Plante warned, "is that it impacts much more than the respiratory tract and the lung. It hits many different organ systems."

A study done in March found that a COVID-19 infection can impact the brain as well as other vital parts of the body. A health expert from Saint Louis VA Hospital even told KCBS Radio that coronavirus has the potential to affect every organ.

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