After the classic symptoms and the loss of taste and smell, frostbite has been added to the list of symptoms of Covid-19. Inserm researchers believe they have found the reason.
Frostbite is painful skin damage that appears in reaction to cold. Due to skin microvascularization disorders, they are manifested by red or purplish fingers, sometimes with the presence of small blisters which can take on the appearance of dead skin. But when they appeared in patients living on the Côte d’Azur, researchers suspected a link with Covid-19.
Last April, the national union of dermatologists and venereologists (SNDV) sounded the alarm: a new skin symptom seemed to be associated with the coronavirus. “It would be acrosyndromes (appearance of pseudo-frostbite of the extremities), sudden onset of persistent redness, sometimes painful, and temporary urticaria lesions“, emphasized the dermatologists. Chinese, Taiwanese and Italian scientists had also published texts mentioning this type of rash.
The sign of effective innate immunity
In order to assess their links with the SARS-CoV-2 infection, a team of Inserm researchers started a study among all the people received by the Covid cell of the CHU de Nice between the 9th and 17th. April and which presented this type of lesions. “It has already been described that generalized skin manifestations, such as urticaria, can appear after a respiratory viral infection, but the occurrence of localized reactions of this type is unprecedented “, explains Professor Thierry Passeron, fromInserm / University of Nice Sophia Antipolis who led this work.
In light of the profiles of the patients concerned (their rather young age, the rarity of symptoms associated with Covid-19 or the negativity of PCR and serological tests) suggest that these frostbite are due to innate immunity (the first line of defense of the body against pathogens) particularly effective.
“Thus, if the severe forms of Covid-19 appear to be linked to a defect in adaptive immunity, which makes it impossible to produce sufficient cells and antibodies specific for SARS-CoV-2, the frostbite could be located at the other end of the spectrum, and illustrate an overreaction of innate immunity ” underline the researchers.
A symptom that regresses without sequel
If these skin lesions are not yet listed in the symptoms of Covid-19, this skin manifestation should alert on the possibility of having coronavirus.
“We have seen the number of these frostbite increase again in recent weeks, like what we observed during the first wave of the epidemic, notes Thierry Passeron. We must nevertheless reassure the people who suffer from it: even if they are painful, these frostbites are not serious and regress without consequences over a few days to a few weeks “.
However, questions remain unanswered, such as the contagiousness of patients with these frostbite, or their ability to be infected a second time.
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