07/15 News Flash 6: COVID-19 in the Brain

Image courtesy of Flickr.

What if the coronavirus could infiltrate the brain––the organ that makes you who you are, stores all of your memories and holds the power to control your entire body? As terrifying as that may sound, recent evidence suggests that the barrier to the nervous system might be yet another that SARS-CoV-2 can trespass.

A group of researchers from the University College of London published an article on Brain detailing clinical, laboratory and radiological observations of neurological effects of the virus within a cohort of 43 patients––among which 29 had received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, 8 were thought to probably have the disease and 6 were considered possibly infected. 

Within that group of patients, delirium, inflammation, strokes and brain bleeds were among the observed neurological symptoms. The authors also highlight that acute disseminated encephalomyelitis––an inflammatory condition influenced by immune responses that damage the insulating sheath surrounding nerve fibers––was “striking” in its high incidence. The condition was also commonly associated with hemorrhages. 

Interestingly, the authors point out that coronavirus infection has been associated with neurological conditions that can afflict the entire neuraxis––the axis of the central nervous system. Why and how that is remains unclear, but warrants further studies to evaluate possible long-term effects and their ties to the COVID-19.