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New research shows how Covid-19 can cause brain damage



On December 22, 2020, a COVID-1[ads1]9 patient lies on a bed at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, Los Angeles.

On December 22, 2020, a COVID-19 patient lies on a bed at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, Los Angeles.
photo: Hong Zai C (Associated Press)

Today’s new research seems to give us a better understanding of how covid-19 causes brain damage. Studies have shown that although viral infections may not reach the brain directly in most cases, it can trigger the destructive inflammation seen in other neurological diseases such as strokes.

The research was conducted by American government scientists from the National Institutes of Health and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The team used highly sensitive MRI scans and observed brain tissue under a microscope to study the brains of 19 people who died after contracting the covid-19 virus. These patients range in age from 5 to 73 years old, and some patients have health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

High-resolution scan of the brainstem of covid-19 patients. The arrows point to bright and dark spots that indicate damage to blood vessels.

A high-resolution scan of the brainstem of a covid-19 patient. The arrows point to bright and dark spots that indicate damage to blood vessels.
image: Provided by NIH/NINDS

Researchers could not find any traces of the virus in these samples, indicating that it did not infect the brain. But they did find blood vessels were blocked, thinned and leaking. Near some of these blood vessels, they also found signs of inflammation, such as increased levels of immune cells called microglia in the brain. All in all, these findings point to these patients and other similar patients having a false immune response that attacks blood vessels in the brain, which is caused by coronavirus infection.

“We were completely surprised. Initially, we wanted to see the damage caused by hypoxia. Instead, we saw areas of multifocal damage that are usually associated with stroke and neuroinflammatory diseases,” National Institutes of Health and National Neurological Diseases and Stroke Said Avindra Nath, clinical director of the institute. Published By NIH.

Some research findings evidence The virus can directly invade the brain and the parts of the body connected to the brain, especially the olfactory bulb that helps us process odors. In at least some cases, infecting these areas can still explain some of the symptoms seen with covid-19, such as the disappearance of odors.But the new result adds A lot of evidence Inflammation is a key factor in explaining how covid-19 damages the body (including the brain).Other studies have found that covid-19 may increase or worsen the risk of inflammation-related health conditions, such as Stroke with Heart damage.

Nas told Gizmodo in an email: “Although we may have missed any infection of the brain by the virus, we think this is unlikely because we have used multiple techniques to detect the virus.” “These other The paper found that the copy number of the virus in the brain is very low, so it is unlikely to be the main driving mechanism of the pathology.”

Although all patients in the study died, these findings may also help explain why some survivors continue to experience lingering complications even after the infection is cleared. Often, these complications appear to be neurological and include difficulty concentrating, memory problems and other symptoms collectively referred to as brain fog.

Nas explained: “Even if the patient died suddenly, they did not die from an obvious neurological disease.” He said that the people included in this study may not be outliers, so “the findings here may also be related to long-term survivors. .”


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