Among the various comorbidities potentially worsening the clinical outcome in patients hospitalized for the acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), hypertension is one of the most prevalent. However, the basic mechanisms underlying the development of severe forms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among hypertensive patients remain undefined and the direct association of hypertension with outcome in COVID-19 is still a field of debate. Experimental and clinical data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection promotes a rise in blood pressure (BP) during the acute phase of infection. Acute increase in BP and high in-hospital BP variability may be tied with acute organ damage and a worse outcome in patients hospitalized for COVID-19. In this context, the failure of the counter-regulatory renin-angiotensin-system (RAS) axis is a potentially relevant mechanism involved in the raise in BP. It is well recognized that the efficient binding of the Spike (S) protein to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors mediates the virus entry into cells. Internalization of ACE2, downregulation and malfunction predominantly due to viral occupation, dysregulates the protective RAS axis with increased generation and activity of angiotensin (Ang) II and reduced formation of Ang1,7. Thus, the imbalance between Ang II and Ang1–7 can directly contribute to excessively rise BP in the acute phase of SARS-CoV-2 infection. A similar mechanism has been postulated to explain the raise in BP following COVID-19 vaccination (“Spike Effect” similar to that observed during the infection of SARS-CoV-2). S proteins produced upon vaccination have the native-like mimicry of SARS-CoV-2 S protein's receptor binding functionality and prefusion structure and free-floating S proteins released by the destroyed cells previously targeted by vaccines may interact with ACE2 of other cells, thereby promoting ACE2 internalization and degradation, and loss of ACE2 activities.
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