Pathogenesis and Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in the Intestine, Liver, and Pancreas
The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, rapidly spread worldwide, causing an ongoing global pandemic. While the respiratory system is the most common site of infection, a significant number of reported cases indicate gastrointestinal (GI) involvement. GI symptoms include anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although the mechanisms of GI pathogenesis are still being examined, viral components isolated from stool samples of infected patients suggest a potential fecal–oral transmission route. In addition, viral RNA has been detected in blood samples of infected patients, making hematologic dissemination of the virus a proposed route for GI involvement. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors serve as the cellular entry mechanism for the virus, and these receptors are particularly abundant throughout the GI tract, making the intestine, liver, and pancreas potential extrapulmonary sites for infection and reservoirs sites for developing mutations and new variants that contribute to the uncontrolled spread of the disease and resistance to treatments. This transmission mechanism and the dysregulation of the immune system play a significant role in the profound inflammatory and coagulative cascades that contribute to the increased severity and risk of death in several COVID-19 patients. This article reviews various potential mechanisms of gastrointestinal, liver, and pancreatic injury.
Khreefa, Zaid; Barbier, Mallory T.; Koksal, Ali Riza; Love, Gordon; and Del Valle, Luis, "Pathogenesis and Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in the Intestine, Liver, and Pancreas" (2023). School of Medicine Faculty Publications. 515.