New research published in the journal Function suggests that SARS-CoV-2 infection in the carotid body—a cluster of chemoreceptors and specialized cells in the neck’s carotid artery—may contribute to “silent hypoxemia” in people with COVID-19. Silent hypoxemia is the state of low blood oxygen levels without the accompanying shortness of breath that is a hallmark symptom of COVID-19.
Researchers found that angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in carotid body tissue of adults was expressed primarily in oxygen-sensing glomus cells containing neurotransmitters that are released in response to low oxygen levels. The glomus cells may be a particular target for viral entry and, when infected, may become unable to accurately sense oxygen levels.
“If confirmed, our hypothesis would warrant the use of [carotid body] activators as respiratory stimulants in COVID-19 patients. These drugs act downstream the mitochondrial [oxygen] sensor as they directly block [potassium] channels in glomus cells,” the authors wrote.
Read the full article, “Is carotid body infection responsible for silent hypoxemia in COVID-19 patients?” Contact the APS Communications Office to schedule an interview with the research team.