High blood pressure and its drug treatment unlikely to increase entry of COVID-19 virus into cells 

27/10/2020 00:00 
Fears that people with high blood pressure are more at risk from severe Covid-19 because it is easier for the virus to enter their cells and tissues have been laid to rest, thanks to research involving UCLH.

The team including UCLH Director of Research Professor Bryan Williams led by the University of Manchester also showed that speculation that some blood pressure lowering medications may increase the risk of Covid-19 infection is likely to be wrong.

The study conducted on human kidneys, published in the European Heart Journal, will reassure doctors and their patients that it is safe to take their blood pressure medication during the pandemic.

Scientists already know that SARS-CoV-2 virus – which causes Covid-19 disease – uses a protein called ACE2 found on the surface of kidney and to a lesser extent lung and heart cells, as a way to infect the body.

Kidneys are the primary site for blood pressure regulation in the body. They naturally produce ACE2 at a higher level than many other tissues and are affected by the virus.

But the suggestion that ACE2 is modified by antihypertensive medicines, especially ACE inhibitors to make it easier for SARS-Cov-2 to break into cells, has been disproved by the team.

“There has been widely reported speculation that having high blood pressure and taking certain medications used to treat hypertension - especially ACE Inhibitors - may increase expression of the blood pressure regulating protein ACE2,” said Dr James Eales, from The University of Manchester.

“Many felt that increased expression of ACE2 may also increase the risk of infection - or a severe outcome from SARS-CoV-2” added Dr Xiao Jiang, from the University of Manchester.

Professor Fadi J Charchar from Federation University in Australia added: “We checked a range of antihypertensive medicines including, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, Calcium Channel antagonists, Angiotensin II receptor blockers, and others; none are linked to changes in ACE2.”

Professor Bryan Williams said: “The speculation about whether high blood pressure and the drugs we commonly use to treat it, increased the risks associated with Covid-19 infection caused a lot of anxiety for many millions of people treated for high blood pressure. This new research refutes the prior speculation that the drugs we commonly use to treat high blood pressure leads to an increase in the receptors for Covid-19 on the surface of the lungs. It is a really important finding.”

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

 Latest news

 Contact details

Communications unit
2nd floor central
250 Euston Road
London NW1 2PG

Media enquiries

Switchboard: 020 3456 7890
Media enquiries: 020 3447 7542 / 020 3447 9506
Email: uclh.media@nhs.net

Out of hours
The normal working hours for the Communications Unit are Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. The only media enquiries that will be answered outside of these working hours are urgent enquiries and those relating to major incidents. To access the out-of-hours service call switchboard on 0845 155 5000.

Share this story