Though it’s long been known to linger in respiratory tracts for weeks after infection, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can quickly spread to the entire body and remain in the heart, brain and other organs for as long as eight months.
That’s according to new research from U.S. scientists—shedding light on so-called long Covid infections as experts warn the highly contagious omicron variant could spur a surge in U.S. hospitalizations.
In a pre-print paper released Saturday that has not been peer-reviewed, scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health wrote that they found the SARS-CoV-2 virus present in autopsies in multiple sites across the body for up to 230 days after patients first reported symptoms.
This building on previous research that’s shown the virus can persist in the respiratory tract for weeks.
“It’s extraordinarily contagious,” Fauci said, adding that even though the hospitalization rate has been lower for omicron in countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom, a “high volume” of infections could still prove troublesome in the U.S., especially in light of the tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans who are still “most vulnerable” to severe illness.
The scientists said results from autopsies on 44 patients who died following coronavirus infections showed that although the “highest burden” is in the airways and lung, the virus can “disseminate early during infection and infect cells throughout the entire body.”
This includes the brain, as well as ocular tissue [eyes], muscles, skin, peripheral nerves, and tissues in the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine and lymphatic systems … read more.