When an infection invades the heart

Viruses and bacteria can infect parts of the heart — with potentially serious consequences.

Published: August, 2020

Compared with other heart problems, heart infections are uncommon. But sometimes they trigger inflammation that can damage the heart, which is why you should be aware of the risks and symptoms.

"Infections can start in various places in the body — the mouth, the lungs, or the gastrointestinal tract. But they can spread to the heart through the bloodstream," explains Dr. Dale Adler, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. Certain viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 — can directly infect cells in the muscle and blood vessels of the heart, hijacking the cells' basic machinery and causing destructive inflammation, he adds.

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