SARS-CoV-2 is a syncytial virus

The word I was trying to remember about how SARS-CoV-2 does much of its damage is syncytia (plural of syncytium). I wasn't even in the ballpark on pronunciation:


syncytia: sin-sish'-uh
syncytium: sin-sish'-uhm

Conceptions in progress:

Syncytia are formed when individual cells fuse. SARS-CoV-2 induces syncytia when the viral spike (S) protein on the surface of an infected cell interacts with receptors on neighboring cells. Syncytia may potentially contribute to pathology by facilitating viral dissemination, cytopathicity, immune evasion, and inflammatory response. [1]

Syncytia can also form when cells are infected with certain types of viruses, notably HSV-1, HIV, MeV, SARS-CoV-2, and pneumoviruses, e.g. respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). ... Because many cells fuse together, syncytia are also known as multinucleated cells, giant cells, or polykaryocytes. [2]


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Still from fascinating video of syncytia forming in a bat's brain: A microscopic video shows the coronavirus on the rampage. - The New York Times.

I first encountered the word syncytia (I think) in The risk of Long COVID explained. - by Don Ford.

  1. The Mechanism and Consequences of SARS-CoV-2 Spike-Mediated Fusion and Syncytia Formation - ScienceDirect ↩︎

  2. Syncytium - Wikipedia ↩︎