Heard of the "bradykinin hypothesis"? It might just explain COVID-19's odd array of symptoms. That's according to a recent paper based on data crunched by a supercomputer in Tennessee, Medium reports. Earlier this year, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory analyzed 17,000 genetic samples in an effort to better comprehend the disease. Researchers pored over the results and confirmed a previously floated theory—that COVID-19 can be explained by its effect on bradykinin, a body chemical that usually helps regulate blood pressure. "There was a Sunday afternoon eureka moment just staring at the data," lead researcher Daniel Jacobson told Forbes in August.
The virus seems to trigger a domino effect that spikes bradykinin levels, which then cause blood vessels to leak. That would fill lungs with fluid; create seizures, stroke, delirium, and dizziness; and possibly create low blood pressure and arrhythmias, all of which have occurred in COVID-19 patients. The researchers say COVID-19 boosts bradykinin by altering a hormone system called the renin–angiotensin system, or RAS. "We've been very interested in the RAS pathways because coronaviruses so often target them," says Jacobson. Luckily there are drugs that affect the RAS, including danazol and stanozolol; vitamin D also helps. The researchers are calling for clinical trials to test these approaches. "We have to get this message out," Jacobson says. (Read more coronavirus stories.)