A Federation University Australia study has helped allay fears that high blood pressure and taking medication for the condition increases the chance of coronavirus infection and complications.
The research follows widespread speculation that having high blood pressure and taking medications used to treat hypertension could increase the risk of infection or a severe outcome from COVID-19
The concern stemmed from the knowledge that the ACE2 protein, found on the surface of some human cells such as the lungs and kidney are used by the coronavirus as an anchor to gain entry into, and infect, cells.
It has been thought that high blood pressure (hypertension) and medications used to treat it may increase the expression of the ACE2 protein.
Federation University Graduate Research School Dean Fadi Charchar, who is also Director of the new Health Innovation and Transformation Centre, helped lead an international group of researchers who used gene expression data from a collection of kidney samples and experimental models to study the effects of hypertension and medications to treat the condition on ACE2 expression.
“These results provide important information for the medical community, and those who suffer from high blood pressure, providing important knowledge and reassurance to those concerned about the impact of their condition and medication on their coronavirus risks,” Professor Charchar said.
“At a time when there is so much more to know about coronavirus, we are pleased to help increase our understanding of the disease and ensure we are not making decisions about existing medications that could put lives at risk.”
The kidney is of particular interest as it naturally produces a high level of ACE2, and is an organ often affected by coronavirus in severe cases.
The researchers found that ACE2 expression is not affected by hypertension or its medications, providing strong biological evidence to support advice that people with high blood pressure should continue to take their medications as prescribed.
It also provides reassurance that those with high blood pressure are not at increased risk of infection or a severe outcome from COVID-19.
The research has been published in the prestigious European Heart Journal.