'Covid toes' may be body's response to fighting off virus, study finds

6 October 2021, 14:41

A new study has given fresh insight into the skin condition known as 'COVID toes'
A new study has given fresh insight into the skin condition known as 'COVID toes'. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

The skin condition known as “Covid toes” may be a side effect of the immune system's response to fighting off the virus, a new study has found.

It can result in chilblain-like inflammation and redness on the hands and feet, and can last for months at a time.

It typically develops within a week to four weeks of being infected with the virus.

Carried out at Saint Louis Hospital in Paris, the study was commissioned following an outbreak of chilblain-like lesions (CLL) early in the pandemic last spring.

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The study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, examined 50 people with Covid toes and 13 with similar chilblain lesions that arose before the pandemic.

It found one mechanism behind both types of the condition involved the body generating an immune response with high levels of certain autoantibodies, which mistakenly target and react with a person's own cells and tissues as well as the invading virus.

They also found an overlap with type I interferon, a key protein in the antiviral response.

In addition to the immune system, cells lining blood vessels which supply the affected areas also appeared to play a critical role in the development of COVID toes and chilblains.