COVID-19 virus may be invading the brain: Study

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
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A US study reports that corona virus is capable of invading the brain, causing headache, confusion and delirium.

A person suffering from delirium experiences a reduced awareness of their surroundings and confused thinking.

The paper, led by Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki, claimed that the virus is capable of replicating within the brain following which it starves neighboring brain cells of oxygen.

The study found that SARS-CoV-2, the corona causing virus, could crack the blood-brain-barrier.

Blood-brain-barrier is a structure that encloses the blood vessels of the brain and attempts to block foreign substances.

This may suggest that the overwhelmed immune response known as the cytokine storm, which is responsible for most of the damage seen in the lungs of COVID-19 patients, may not be the main cause of neurological (nerve related) symptoms.

It is believed that the nose could provide an entry point to the brain, but the authors of the study say this needs to be confirmed by further research.

They added that further autopsies would be needed to learn how widespread the brain infection can be.

While the study is still in a preliminary stage, it offers a range of new lines of evidence to support what was previously a mostly untested theory, sources say.

Iwasaki and colleagues approached the study to recognize the possibility in three ways: by infecting lab-grown mini-brains known as brain organoids, by infecting mice, and by analyzing the brain tissues of COVID-19 patients who died.

Praising the techniques used in the research, S Andrew Josephson, chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, said that “understanding whether or not there is clear viral involvement of the brain is extremely necessary.” He urged everyone to remain cautious until further research is conducted regarding the same.

Previously the experts had assumed that the neurological symptoms observed in about half of all patients may rather be the product of an immune response known as a cytokine storm that contributes to inflammation of the brain, instead of a direct attack of the virus.

Patients who have recovered from corona virus are at risk of developing pulmonary fibrosis or lung scarring, which shortness of breath and fatigue, reported doctors at India’s AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) recently.

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