DOCTORS believe a man’s two-week bout of hiccups was caused by Covid.
It’s not the first time the strange symptom has been linked to the coronavirus as scientists learn more about its effects on the body.
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Experts say the virus could be attacking the diaphragm — a muscle that sits between the chest and stomach that helps control breathing.
Hiccups happen when the diaphragm involuntarily spasms or contracts as a result of eating certain foods, swallowing air, excitement, stress and more.
But they have also been linked to other infectious diseases including flu and tuberculosis.
The NHS says hiccups that last longer than 48 hours are considered a cause for concern and should be addressed by a doctor.
Medics in Egypt described a man who came to hospital complaining that he had suffered hiccups for a week straight, as well as a sore throat.
He said he had developed a fever first, which had partially improved with over-the-counter medicine.
In order to understand what was causing his hiccups, doctors ordered an abdominal ultrasound, according to the report published in the journal Respiratory Investigation.
But they found nothing unusual to suggest the man’s hiccups were caused by a stomach problem, as they often can be.
He was taken into the emergency room as his hiccups, fever, and sore throat worsened.
Here, he had a CT scan of the chest, which showed he had the characteristic signs of Covid-19, including built up fluid in the lungs that is caused by viral pneumonia.
Fearing he was infected, doctors swiftly moved the man into an isolation room and swabbed him for the coronavirus. The test came back positive.
He was given drugs to help treat the coronavirus, but because his hiccups were “frustrating”, doctors gave him three extra drugs to try to help him breathe easier.
The patient slowly started to improve after medics increased the dosage of baclofen, which is used to treat muscle spasticity and persistent hiccups.
Ten days after admission, he tested negative for Covid and was sent home in a stable condition.
Nader Bakheet and colleagues of the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, wrote: “We believe our case of a 48-year-old male patient with persistent hiccups could be a possible rare presentation of Covid-19.
“The exact correlation between Covid-19 and the hiccups is hard to explain.”
The doctors said the hiccups could be a direct effect of the infection. But they admitted it could also just be a coincidence.
They noted another report from doctors in the US, who described a man who had hiccups for several days after testing positive for Covid, despite having no other symptoms.
The 62-year-old patient, from Chicago, was admitted to the hospital in April where doctors also noted that he had unexplained weight loss.
According to the case report, published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, the man had diabetes but wasn't suffering from a fever, or a sore throat.
But he had been experiencing persistent hiccups for four days, and when tested for coronavirus his results came back positive.
He was then admitted to the Covid medical unit, by which point he had developed a fever.
Another man in Egypt, 64, tested positive for Covid after coming to hospital with hiccups that had worn on for three days.
After testing positive for the coronavirus, he was kept in hospital despite having no other symptoms. His hiccups improved after a week, according to the pre-print paper.
In all three cases reported, a chest CT scan showing abnormalities in the lungs has led doctors to suspect Covid.
Scientists said hiccups caused by the coronavirus could come down to ACE2 receptors.
The receptors, which cover cells in the body, are used by the virus when it tries to break into cells.
It is found everywhere from the brain, stomach and lungs to the skin, bone marrow and kidneys.
Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at Leeds University School of Medicine, told MailOnline: “There's still a great deal we do not understand about this virus.
“But one thing we do know is that the ACE2 receptor is found on lots of different tissues around the body. And post-mortems have shown the virus can reach all sorts of places.”
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