Persistent SARS-CoV-2 infection and the risk for cancer
Ferreira, João Augusto
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Summary in foreign language
The current SARS-CoV-2 has put significant strain on healthcare services worldwide due to acute COVID-19. However, the potential long-term effects of this infection haven’t been extensively discussed. We hypothesize that SARS-CoV-2 may be able to cause persistent infection in some individuals, and should this be the case, that in a few years we may see a rise in cancer incidence due to carcinogenic effects of this coronavirus. Non-retroviral RNA viruses such as Coronaviridae have been shown to cause persistent infection in hosts. Empirical evidence of viral genomic material shedding weeks after apparent clinical and laboratorial resolution of COVID-19 may be an indirect proof for persistent viral infection. Furthermore, tropism towards certain immune-privileged territories may facilitate immune evasion by this virus. Structural homology with SARS-CoV-1 indicates that SARS-CoV-2 may be able to directly impair pRb and p53, which are key gatekeepers with tumor suppressor functions. Additionally, COVID-19 features preeminent inflammatory response with marked oxidative stress, which acts as both as initiator and promotor of carcinogenesis. Should there be a carcinogenic risk associated with SARS-CoV-2, the implications for public health are plenty, as infected patients should be closely watched during long periods of follow-up. Additional investigation to establish or exclude the possibility for persistent infection is paramount to identify and prevent possible complications in the future.
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