A new study on how the coronavirus affects the nervous system has revealed that the viral invader attacks its victim’s brain cells.
Their findings, which are awaiting peer review on BioRXiv, add evidence to claims that the brain belongs on the ever growing list of vulnerabilities to COVID-19, including the lungs, kidneys, liver, gut and blood vessels.
“If the brain does become infected, it could have a lethal consequence,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University and lead researcher, told the New York Times.
The coronavirus is a whole body disease. Broadly, doctors have long observed its respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, troubled breathing and pneumonia. Soon, they added more puzzling issues: gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea; loss of taste and smell; chest pain and arrhythmia; brain fog and confusion.
Other than patient anecdotes, “we hadn’t really seen much evidence that the virus can infect the brain, even though we knew it was a potential possibility,” Dr. Michael Zandi, consultant neurologist at University College London’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, told the Times. In July, Dr. Zandi’s team published a report in Oxford University’s journal Brain documenting what they’d seen and heard from patients suffering neurologic effects following a COVID-19 diagnosis.