Covid-19: Study describes the effect of virus on brain

Infection can cause cognitive dysfunction


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Photo: ANI
Photo: ANI

Published: Fri 12 Aug 2022, 8:06 AM

Last updated: Fri 12 Aug 2022, 8:28 AM

A study shows how SARS-CoV-2 infects brain cells called astrocytes, causing structural changes in the brain. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 can cause brain alterations and cognitive dysfunction, particularly in long Covid-19 syndrome, but the underlying mechanisms are elusive.

Daniel Martins-de-Souza and his colleagues used MRI scans to compare brain structure in 81 study participants recovering from a mild Covid-19 infection, and 81 healthy individuals.

The authors found that the former group exhibited reduced cortical thickness, which was correlated with cognitive impairments, as well as symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

The authors analysed brain samples from 26 people who had died of Covid-19. He found that five of these brain samples showed tissue damage.

Further analysis of the damaged brain samples revealed that astrocytes, which are brain cells that sustain neuronal metabolism, were particularly likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, and that the virus entered these cells through the NRP1 receptor.

Once infected, astrocytes exhibited altered levels of metabolites used to fuel neurons and neurotransmitter production, and the infected cells secreted neurotoxic molecules. According to the authors, the findings explain the structural changes observed in the brains of people with Covid-19.

The significance of the study denotes the neurological symptoms that are among the most prevalent of the extrapulmonary complications of Covid-19, that affect more than 30 per cent of patients.


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