Liver Injury During Highly Pathogenic Human Coronavirus Infections

Ling Xu; Jia Liu; Mengji Lu; Dongliang Yang; Xin Zheng

Disclosures

Liver International. 2020;40(5):998-1004. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2), the pathogen of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has posed a serious threat to global public health. The WHO has declared the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 infection an international public health emergency. Lung lesions have been considered as the major damage caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, liver injury has also been reported to occur during the course of the disease in severe cases. Similarly, previous studies have shown that liver damage was common in the patients infected by the other two highly pathogenic coronavirus – severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and associated with the severity of diseases. In this review, the characteristics and mechanism of liver injury caused by SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection were summarized, which may provide help for further studies on the liver injury of COVID-19.

Introduction

Coronavirus (CoVs) is a virus of the coronavirus family, which has the largest genome of all known RNA viruses and is widely found in humans, mice, pigs, cats, dogs and other animals. Seven coronavirus species are known to cause human disease, of which four species (HCoV-NL63, HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1) cause respiratory infections in immunocompromised individuals, infants and the elderly.[1] The other three are highly pathogenic human coronaviruses, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the 2019 new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) (summarized in Table 1). These three viruses can cause respiratory, intestinal, hepatic and neuronal diseases, and may lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multiple organ failure (MOF) and even death in severe cases.[2–4] Studies have shown that patients infected with SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 may develop different degrees of liver injury. In this review, the characteristics and mechanism of liver injury caused by SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection were summarized, which may provide help for further studies on the liver injury of COVID-19.

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