New York: An international team of scientists has found evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, infects cells in the mouth.
While it is well-known that the upper airways and lungs are primary sites of SARS-CoV-2 infection, there are clues the virus can infect cells in other parts of the body, such as the digestive system, blood vessels, kidneys and, as this new study, led by scientists at the US National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shows, the mouth.
The potential of the virus to infect multiple areas of the body might help explain the wide-ranging symptoms experienced by Covid-19 patients, including oral symptoms such as taste loss, dry mouth and blistering.
Moreover, the findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, point to the possibility that the mouth plays a role in transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to the lungs or digestive system via saliva laden with virus from infected oral cells.
A better understanding of the mouth’s involvement could inform strategies to reduce viral transmission within and outside the body.
Taken together, the researchers said, the study’s findings suggest that the mouth, via infected oral cells, plays a bigger role in SARS-CoV-2 infection than previously thought.
“When infected saliva is swallowed or tiny particles of it are inhaled, we think it can potentially transmit SARS-CoV-2 further into our throats, our lungs, or even our guts,” said study co-author Kevin Byrd, Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the time of research.
Byrd is now a Research Scholar at the American Dental Association Science and Research Institute.