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COVID-Toe May Indicate Coronavirus Infection

Tracy Davenport Tracy Davenport
1st June 2020
COVID-Toe May Indicate Coronavirus Infection
Covid-toe is the name given to a lesser known symptom of COVID-19 (Getty Images)

The Claim

Toe lesions may be a strange sign of coronavirus infection.

Emerging story

In early May, Twitter users began posting about COVID-toe, a strange symptom of coronavirus.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar's investigation shows that dermatologists have recently become inundated with patients with toe lesions. As one dermatologist from San Francisco said, “I’ve got clinics filled with people coming in with new toe lesions.” The lesions are reddish-purple in color, usually referred to as chilblain-like lesions, and are most of the time associated with cold weather or an autoimmune disease. According to the Times, the lesions are emerging as yet another telltale symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. 

In research published in Seminars in Oncology, 17 reports have detailed 566 patients with a new onset of “Covid-toes” suspected to be related to Covid-19. Out of the 172 patients with the toe symptoms who were tested, Covid infection was confirmed in 41, or a rate of only 24 percent. 

Experts believe there are several possible explanations for “Covid-toe.” One theory is that the skin lesions have nothing to do with Covid-19. According to researchers Massey and Jones, “it has been an unseasonably cold Spring in the United States and heightened self-detection may be occurring in patients with idiopathic chilblains following Covid-19-associated media attention.” In other words, once people see it reported, they are more apt to report the condition even if it is related to other causes. 

The toe symptoms could also be a delayed reaction to the virus, occurring after the virus has cleared. By the time people with the symptoms are tested, the test comes out negative. According to a commentary published in the International Journal of Dermatology (2020), “The lack of confirmatory testing does not allow us to corroborate the association of these type of lesions with Covid-19. However, the high number of consultations made for these rare lesions in the current epidemiological context makes us think that there may be a relationship.”

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While the reports of ‘Covid-toes’ have increased dramatically since the Covid-19 virus, it is still unclear the exact relationship between the toe symptoms and the virus. More research is needed to determine if and how the toe symptoms are related to the virus. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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