(Image source from: medpagetoday.net)
Headache and confusion are being experienced by some of the COVID-19 patients which indicates that COVID-19 is invading the human brain.
The research on coronavirus affecting the brain is still in preliminary stages but provides new lines of evidence to support a largely avoided theory.
Some of the patients affected with COVID-19 are developing headaches, confusion, and delirium which could be a result of the coronavirus attacking the brain.
A study regarding this finding has been published don Wednesday.
According to the study which is led by Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki, the coronavirus is now able to replicate inside the brain and the virus’s presence can starve the nearby brain cells of oxygen, though the prevalence of this finding is not yet clear.
Andrew Josephson, the head of the neurology department at the University of California has praised the efforts by Akiko and said that it is extremely important to know the involvement of coronavirus in the brain cells and nerves.
It would not be completely shocking if coronavirus is capable of breaching the blood barrier in the brain. A blood barrier is basically a structure that surrounds the blood vessels and tries to block foreign substances.
For instance, the zika virus also does this which impacts the brain cells of fetuses.
However, till date, the doctors have anticipated that the headaches developed by the COVID-19 patients may be due to the abnormal immune response known as cytokine storm rather than the virus attacking directly.
Iwasaki and his colleagues have decided to approach this study in three ways.
- By infecting the lab-grown mini-brains known as brain organoids.
- By infecting mice with the virus.
- By examining the brain tissues of the infected patients.
In the brain organoids, the team of researchers has found out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to infect neurons and then hijack the neuron cells’ machinery to make the copies of itself.
The infected cells in turn promoted the death of the surrounding cells by stopping the oxygen supply.
One of the main arguments against this theory is that the brain lacks the high levels of a protein called ACE2 on which the coronavirus latches on and which is found in abundance in other organs also like the lungs.
However, the team has found out that the brain organoids had enough ACE2 to make the virus entry easier and the proteins were also present in the brain tissue of the diseased patients.
The researchers have also performed a spinal tap on a hospitalized COVID-19 patient suffering from delirium and found that the neutralizing antibodies against the virus in their spinal fluid.
Those patients who were infected in the brain have lost weight rapidly and quickly died indicating that there is heightened legality when the virus enters the organ.
It has been guessed that the nose could provide a pathway for the virus to enter the brain however, this topic needs more study.
More autopsies will be required to learn about the prevalence of bain infection in the case of coronavirus.
By Gayatri Yellayi