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'White Jelly' in Lungs Identified as COVID Symptom

“Jelly lungs” have been identified in severe COVID-19 infections.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified last year in Wuhan, China, it was clear that the highly infectious virus wreaks serious damage on the respiratory system, specifically the lungs. Now, researchers have revealed a deadly new respiratory symptom of the virus—only it is not visual to the naked eye.

A new study conducted by researchers at Umeå University in Sweden introduces the symptom they identify as "jelly lungs," after finding that many people who died of the virus had a jelly-like substance in their lungs. They believe this discovery will help advance treatments for the virus and save lives. Read on to see what it does to your body, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Why Do the Lungs Fill With a Jelly-Like Substance?

"There are already therapies that either slow down the body's production of this jelly or breaks down the jelly through an enzyme. Our findings can also explain why cortisone seems to have an effect on COVID-19," Urban Hellman, researcher at Umeå University, explained in a press release

In the past researchers have conducted scans on critically ill patients as well as examined their bodies via autopsies, identifying white patches on their lungs, often filled with a clear liquid jelly, "much resembling the lungs of someone who has drowned," the release reads. However, it was unclear where the jelly came from. 

The group of researchers at the Translational Research Centre at Umeå University have identified that the jelly consists of the substance hyaluronan, a polysaccharide in the glycosaminoglycan group.

"The presence of hyaluronan is normal in the human body, with various functions in different tissues, but it generally acts as a useful characteristic in the connective tissue," the press release reads. "Not least, hyaluronan is involved in the early stages of wound healing. Hyaluronan is also produced synthetically in the beauty industry for lip augmentation and anti-wrinkle treatments."

They explain that hyaluronan can bind large amounts of water in its web of long molecules, and then forms a jelly-like substance." And it is this process that runs riot in the alveoli of COVID-19 patients' lungs resulting in the patient needing ventilator care and, in worst case, dies from respiratory failure," it continues. 

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How Can This 'Lung Jelly' Be Cured?

They believe that a drug called Hymecromone may be effective in preventing this from happening, as it is used to slow down the production of hyaluronan in other diseases such as gallbladder attacks. Other interventions could include enzymes or even cortisone. 

"It has previously been assumed that the promising preliminary results would be linked to the general anti-inflammatory properties of cortisone, but in addition to those beliefs, cortisone may also reduce the production of hyaluronan, which may reduce the amount of jelly in the lungs," Hellman explains.

As for yourself, if you experience any lung pain or difficulty breathing, contact a medical professional, and for everyone: wear a face mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds, don't congregate with people indoors, get your flu shot—and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah