While ‘COVID toe’ left many scratching their heads, a new study set out to uncover why some people develop this condition after contracting COVID-19.
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Paris in France believes they have uncovered why some people developed inflammation and lesions on their toes and feet after contracting COVID-19.
According to CTV News, the study (published in the British Journal of Dermatology) focused on how the immune system plays a role in the development of the skin condition called “chilblain-like lesions” or “COVID toes”.
The skin condition primarily affects the toes, although the fingers can also be affected, and is characterised by blueish-red or purple bumps or blisters, redness, and swelling. The condition mostly affects children and teenagers and can be extremely sore and itchy, with tender blisters and swelling. The BBC spoke to a 13-year-old girl from Scotland who was barely able to walk or wear shoes when she developed COVID toe earlier this year. She later had to use a wheelchair for longer walks.
In light of cases like this, researchers went on to study 50 people with suspected “COVID toes” in the spring of 2020 as well as 13 other people with similar chilblains lesions that were unrelated to COVID-19 because they had the condition long before the pandemic.
They found that “the toe and finger lesions are the result of the body’s immune system going into overdrive to fight off an infection from the SARS-Cov-2 virus, which causes COVID-19”.
What’s more, researchers found that there are two components of the immune system that are associated with the development of chilblain-like lesions in COVID-19 patients and in those who already had the condition.
This includes an antiviral protein called type 1 interferon and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies that can mistakenly attack a person’s own cells and tissues during its efforts to fight off the invading virus.
The researchers also confirmed there was endothelial dysfunction in chilblain-like lesions. Endothelial dysfunction is a condition in which the endothelial layer (the inner lining) of the small arteries fails to perform all of its functions normally.
“This study illustrates that both the immune system and endothelial cells play a critical role in the genesis of CLL (chilblain-like lesions),” the authors said.
While the lesions typically go away on their own, some patients may require treatment with creams and drugs.
In the study, the researchers suggest that local or systemic anti-inflammatory treatment could reverse the skin condition in COVID-19 patients.
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