Do statins have a role in treating novel Coronavirus infection, COVID-19?

There is currently no firm clinical evidence that statins improve the outcome of COVID-19. However, there are some theoretical reasons for believing that statins may have a role in the treatment of COVID-19.  That’s because beyond their cholesterol lowering action, statins may also have clinically relevant anti-inflammatory and antiviral (pleotropic) properties.  

Anti-inflammatory: Anti-inflammatory effect of statins is well known and is thought to occur through a variety of molecular pathways of the innate and adaptive immune systems as well as attenuation of several circulating proinflammatory cytokines.1 Although observational studies have suggested that statins lower hospitalization and mortality among outpatients hospitalized with infection, pneumonia or sepsis, several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have failed to show any mortality benefit among ICU patients with sepsis and ARDS treated with statins.2

In contrast, an RCT involving patients with sepsis (majority with pneumonia, mean CRP 195 mg/dL) reported significant reduction in progression to severe sepsis among statin-naïve patients  placed on atorvastatin 40 mg/day at the time of hospitalization.3 So, perhaps timing of statin therapy before florid sepsis and ARDS is an important factor.  

Some have suggested that statins may decrease the fatality rate of a related Coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, by blunting exuberant inflammatory response that may result in a fatal outcome. 4

Antiviral: Statins may also have antiviral properties, including activity against influenza, hepatitis C virus, Zika and dengue viruses.2,5 Whether statins have activity against coronaviruses such as the agent of COVID-19 is unclear at this time.

It’s interesting to note that cholesterol may have an important role in the membrane attachment, fusion and replication of many enveloped viruses, including influenza.5 Covid-19 is also an enveloped virus.

So what do we do? Based on the current data, it makes sense to continue statins in patients who have known clinical indications for their use and no obvious contraindications because of COVID-19 (eg. rhabdomyolysis).6 As for statin-naïve patients, particularly those in early stages of sepsis and increased risk of cardiovascular events, benefit may outweigh the risk.  Only proper clinical studies will give us more definitive answers.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that lipids make up a major component of the envelope in enveloped viruses and that cholesterol makes up nearly one-half of total lipid and over 10% the total mass of influenza viruses?

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References

  1. Tousoulis D, Psarros C, Demosthenous M, et al. Innate and adaptive inflammation as a therapeutic target in vascular diseae: The emerging role of statins. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014;63:2491-2502. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109714011553?via%3Dihub
  2. Fedson DS. Treating the host response to emerging virus diseases: lessons learned from sepsis, pneumonia, influenza and Ebola. Ann Transl Med 2016;4:421. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5124618/pdf/atm-04-21-421.pdf
  3. Patel JM, Snaith C, Thickette DR. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 40 mg/day of atorvastatin in reducing the severity of sepsis in ward patients (ASEPSIS Trial) Critical Care 2012;16:R231. https://ccforum.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/cc11895
  4. Espano E, Nam JH, Song EJ, et al. Lipophilic statins inhibit Zika virus production in Vero cells. Scientific Reports 2019;9:11461. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-47956-1
  5. Sun X, Whittaker GR. Role for influenza virus envelope cholesterol in virus entry and infection. J Virol 2003;77:12543-12551. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC262566/
  6. Virani SS. Is there a role for statin therapy in acute viral infections. Am Coll Cardiol March 18, 2020. https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2020/03/18/15/09/is-there-a-role-for-statin-therapy-in-acute-viral-infections-covid-19

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Do statins have a role in treating novel Coronavirus infection, COVID-19?

What findings should I look for in the chest imaging of my patients with the novel Coronavirus disease/Covid-19?

Chest imaging is often obtained to evaluate for pneumonia and progressive lung injury due to Covid-19. Given the concerns over healthcare worker exposure and environmental contamination, radiographic imaging should be minimized and obtained only when clinically indicated (1).

 
Routine chest radiograph: In a study involving over 1000 hospitalized patients with Covid-19, chest Xray abnormalities on admission were observed in about half of patients with nonsevere disease and three-quarters of those with severe disease (2). Many infiltrates are bilateral, patchy and peripheral in distribution (2,3).

 
Chest CT (without IV contrast):  CT abnormalities on admission have been observed in 84% of patients with nonsevere and 94% of patients with severe disease (2). Ground glass opacities (GGOs) and consolidation have been reported in the majority of patients. Infiltrates are often bilateral, peripheral, and posterior in distribution ( 2-5).

Compared to other causes of pneumonia, the most discriminating features of Covid-19 pneumonia on CT include peripheral distribution of infiltrates (80% vs 57%) and GGOs (91% vs 68%) (5).

CT findings are time dependent. Early during the course of infection, peripheral focal or bilateral multifocal GGOs are frequently observed, later giving rise to “crazy paving” and consolidation with occasional “reverse halo sign” as the disease progresses (see Bonus Pearl below), peaking around 9-13 days (6,7) . Pleural effusion and lymphadenopathy are uncommon (5,7).

 
Point of care ultrasound (POCUS): This relative newcomer offers a potentially useful and rapid means of evaluating for pneumonia or lung injury in Covid-19 and may be more sensitive than chest Xray. Its findings are not specific for Covid-19 lung pathology, however. In a preliminary report involving 12 patients with Covid-19 pneumonia (without ARDS) who underwent POCUS, a diffuse B-line pattern with spared areas was seen in all patients (8,9). Strict adherence to proper isolation precautions and decontamination of the ultrasound probe are essential.

 

Bonus Pearl: “Crazy paving” pattern on CT refers to GGOs with superimposed interlobular septal thickening and intralobular septal thickening, while “reversed halo sign” is a central GGO surrounded by denser consolidation of crescentic shape ring at least 2 mm in thickness (reference 7 has nice photos).

 

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References
1. ACR recommendations for the use of chest radiography and computed tomography (CT) for suspected COVID-19 infection. March 19, 2020. https://www.acr.org/Advocacy-and-Economics/ACR-Position-Statements/Recommendations-for-Chest-Radiography-and-CT-for-Suspected-COVID19-Infection
2. Guan WJ, Zheng-yi N, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of Coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med 2020; February 28. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032
3. Ai T, Yang Z, Hou H, et al. Correlation of chest CT and RT-PCR testing in Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China: A report of 1014 cases. Radiology 2020. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2020200642
4. Yoon SH, Lee KH, Kim JY, et al. Chest radiographic and CT findings of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Analysis of nine patients treated in Korea. Korean J Radiol 2020;21 :494-500. https://www.kjronline.org/Synapse/Data/PDFData/0068KJR/kjr-21-494.pdf
5. Bai HX, Hsieh B, Xiong Z, et al. Performance of radiologists in differentiating COVID-19 from viral pneumonia on chest CT. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2020200823
6. Kanne JP, Little BP, Chung JH, et al. Essentials for radiologists on COVID-19: An update—Radiology scientific expert panel. Radiology 2020; February 27. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2020200527

7. Bernheim A, Mei X, Huang M, et al. Chest CT findings in Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19):Relations to duration of infection. Radiology 2020 Feb 20:200463.  https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/pdf/10.1148/radiol.2020200463
8. Poggiali E, Dacrema A, Bastoni D, et al. Can lung US help critical care clinicians in the early diagnosis of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia? Radiology 2020; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32167853

9. Peng QY, Wang XT, Zhang LN, et al. Findings of lung ultrasonography of novel Coronavirus pneumonia during the 2019-2020 epidemic. Intensive Care Med 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05996.

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What findings should I look for in the chest imaging of my patients with the novel Coronavirus disease/Covid-19?

Should I continue or discontinue angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) in my patients with possible Coronavirus/Covid-19 infection?

The original reports of an association between hypertension and increased risk of mortality in hospitalized patients with Covid-19 infection raised concern over the potential deleterious role of ACEIs or ARBs in such patients.1-4 However, as stated by a joint statement of several cardiology societies, including the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology on March 13, 2020, there is no clinical or scientific evidence that ACEI or ARBS should be routinely discontinued in patients with Covid-19 infection.5

In fact, some have argued for the opposite ie, consideration for the use of ARBs, such as losartan (an angiotensin receptor 1 [AT1R] antagonist), in patients with Covid-19.6,7  Although it is true that Covid-19 appears to use ACE2 as a binding site to infect cells (just as in SARS) and that ACE2 may be upregulated in patients on chronic ACEI or ARBs,8,9 ACE2 may also potentially protect against severe lung injury associated with infections.10,11  

Two complementary mechanisms have been posited for the potential protective effect of ARBs in Covid-19 infection-related lung injury: 1. Blocking the excessive AT1R activation caused by the viral infection; and 2. Upregulation of ACE2, thereby reducing production of angiotensin II and increasing the production of the vasodilator angiotensin 1-7.7

In the absence of proper clinical studies, it is premature, however, to recommend use of losartan or other AT1R antagonists as a means of reducing the likelihood of ARDS in patients with Covid-19 at this time.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that ARDS is a major cause of death in Covid-19 infection?12

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References

  1. Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med 2020, March 6. https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032?articleTools=true
  2. O’Mara GJ. Could ACE inhibitors, and particularly ARBs, increase susceptibility to COVID-19 infection? BMJ 2020;368:m406 ARTICLE
  3. Sommerstein R, Grani C. Preventing a Covid-19 pandemic: ACE inhibitors as a potential risk factor for fatal Covid-19. BMJ2020;368:m810. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m810/rr-2
  4. Li X, Geng M, Peng Y, et al. Molecular immune pathogenesis and diagnosis of COVID-19. Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis 2020, doi htps://doi.org/10.106/j.jpha.2020.03.001. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095177920302045
  5. Cardiology societies recommend patients taking ACE inhibitors, ARBs who contract COVID-19 should continue treatment. March 17, 2020. https://www.healio.com/cardiology/vascular-medicine/news/online/%7Bfe7f0842-aecb-417b-9ecf-3fe7e0ddd991%7D/cardiology-societies-recommend-patients-taking-ace-inhibitors-arbs-who-contract-covid-19-should-continue-treatment
  6. Gurwitz D. Angiotensin receptor blockers as tentative SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics. Drug Dev Res 2020;1-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32129518/
  7. Phadke M, Saunik S. Response to the emerging novel coronavirus outbreak. BMJ 2020;368:m406. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m406/rr-2
  8. Zheng YY, Ma YT, Zhang JY, et al. COVID-19 and the cardiovascular system. Nature Reviews/Cardiology 2020; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41569-020-0360-5 .
  9. Ferrario CM, Jessup J, Chappell MC, et al. Effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition and angiotensin II receptor blockers on cardiac angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. Circulation 2005;111:2605-2610. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circulationaha.104.510461
  10. Kuba K, Imai Y, Rao S, et al. A crucial role of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in SARS coronavirus-induced lung injury. Nature Medicine 2005;11:875-79. Doi:10.1038/nm1267 https://www.nature.com/articles/nm1267?v=1
  11. Tikellis C, Thomas MC. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a key modulator of the renin angiotensin system in health and disease. International Journal of Peptides. Volume 2012, Article ID 256294, 8 pages. Doi:10.1155/2012/256294. https://research.monash.edu/en/publications/angiotensin-converting-enzyme-2-ace2-is-a-key-modulator-of-the-re

12 . Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should I continue or discontinue angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) in my patients with possible Coronavirus/Covid-19 infection?

Key clinical pearls in the medical management of hospitalized patients with coronavirus (Covid-19) infection

First, a shout-out to dedicated healthcare workers everywhere who have selflessly given of themselves to care for the sick during this pandemic. Thank you! Together, I know we will get through it!

Although our understanding of Covid-19 infection is far from complete, in the spirit of clarity and brevity of my posts on Pearls4Peers, here are some key points I have gleaned from review of existing literature and the CDC that may be useful as we care for our hospitalized patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 infection.

  • Isolation precautions.1 Per CDC, follow a combination of airborne (particularly when aerosol generating procedures is anticipated, including nebulizer treatment) and contact precaution protocols. Routinely use masks or respirators, such as N-95s (subject to local availability and policy) and eye protection. Don gowns (subject to local availability and policy) and gloves and adhere to strict hand hygiene practices.

 

  • Diagnostic tests1-9
    • Laboratory tests. Routine admission labs include CBC, electrolytes, coagulation panels and liver and renal tests. Other frequently reported labs include LDH, C-reactive protein (CRP) and procalcitonin. Testing for high sensitivity troponin I has also been performed in some patients, presumably due to concern over ischemic cardiac injury or myocarditis.2 Check other labs as clinically indicated.
    • Chest radiograph/CT chest. One or both have been obtained in virtually all reported cases with CT having higher sensitivity for detection of lung abnormalities.
    • EKG. Frequency of checking EKGs not reported in many published reports thought 1 study reported “acute cardiac injury” in some patients, based in part on EKG findings.4 Suspect we will be checking EKGs in many patients, particularly those who are older or are at risk of heart disease.
    • Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). This relatively new technology appears promising in Covid-19 infections, including in rapid assessment of the severity of pneumonia or ARDS at presentation and tracking the evolution of the disease. 9 Don’t forget to disinfect the probe between uses!

 

  • Treatment 1-8
    • Specific therapies are not currently available for treatment of Covid-19 infections, but studies are underway.
    • Supportive care includes IV fluids, 02 supplementation and nutrition, as needed. Plenty of emotional support for patients and their families will likely be needed during these times.
    • Antibiotics have been used in the majority of reported cases, either on admission or during hospitalization when superimposed bacterial pneumonia or sepsis could not be excluded.
      • Prescribe antibiotics against common community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) pathogens, including those associated with post-viral/influenza pneumonia such as Streptococcus pneumoniae (eg, ceftriaxone), and Staphylococcus aureus (eg, vancomycin or linezolid if MRSA is suspected) when concurrent CAP is suspected.
      • Prescribe antibiotics against common hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) (eg, vancomycin plus cefepime) when HAP is suspected.
    • Corticosteroids should be avoided because of the potential for prolonging viral replication, unless indicated for other reasons such as COPD exacerbation or septic shock. 1
    • Monitor for deterioration in clinical status even when your hospitalized patient has relatively minor symptoms. This is because progression to lower respiratory tract disease due to Covid-19 often develops during the 2nd week of illness (average 9 days).
    • ICU transfer may be necessary in up to 30% of hospitalized patients due to complications such as ARDS, secondary infections, and multi-organ failure.

 

Again, thank you for caring for the sick and be safe! Feel free to leave comments or questions.

 

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References

  1. CDC. Interim clinical guidance for management of patients with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html
  2. Ruan Q, Yang K, Wang W, Jiang L, et al. Clinical predictors of mortality due to COVID-19 based on analysis of data of 150 patients with Wuhan, China. Intensive Care Med 2020. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x
  3. Holshue ML, BeBohlt C, Lindquist S, et al. First case of 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States. N Engl J Med 2020;382:929-36. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191
  4. Huang C, Wang Y, Li Xingwang, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020;395:497-506. https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5.pdf
  5. Young BE, Ong SWX, Kalimuddin S, et al. Epideomiologic features and clinical course of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 Singapore. JAMA, March 3, 2020. Doi.10.1001/jama.2020.3204 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32125362
  6. Chen N, Zhou M, Dong X, et al. Epidemiological and clinical chacteristics of 99 cases of 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, China: a descriptive study. Lancet 2020;395:507-13. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30211-7/fulltext
  7. Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl Med 2020, Feb 28, 2020. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032
  8. Zhang J, Zhou L, Yang Y, et al. Therapeutic and triage strategies for 2019 novel coronavirus disease in fever clinics. Lancet 2020;8: e11-e12. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30071-0/fulltext 9.
  9. Peng QY, Wang XT, Zhang LN, et al. Findings of lung ultrasonography of novel corona virus pneumonia during the 2019-2020 epidemic. Intensive Care Med 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05996-
Key clinical pearls in the medical management of hospitalized patients with coronavirus (Covid-19) infection