Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gateway for Infection

Barrett's oesophagus tissue may be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection

25 April 2021

Gateway for Infection

A year on from the COVID-19 pandemic beginning its spread across the globe, scientists continue to gather new insights about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted. Recently, a research team showed how people with Barrett’s oesophagus, a chronic condition in which the tube connecting the mouth and stomach is damaged over time by acid reflux may be more vulnerable to COVID-19. The condition is characterised by the out-of-place growth of intestine-like cells in the food pipe. By building 'mini-organs' using oesophageal cells collected from these patients (example shown here), the team found the intestinal-type cells (in red) along with TMPRSS2 protein, one of the known receptors for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (in green). While this study does not provide evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food and drink in most people, it does suggest that individuals with this relatively common gastrointestinal condition could be more vulnerable to the virus.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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