In addition to lung, heart and kidney problems, SARS-CoV-2 causes brain problems, even in patients with mild forms of the disease.
The coronavirus continues to reveal its secrets and appears a little more aggressive every day. If we already know its consequences for the lungs and heart, an infection with Covid-19 would also cause brain problems. A previous study, carried out by American researchers, described this phenomenon. They gave it the name of NeuroCovid. Research by scientists at University College London (UCL) suggests that this occurs even in people with a mild form of the disease. The results of this study were published in the journal Brain.
No correlation between the severity of the infection and the presence of brain problems
The study found that there is no correlation between the severity of the infection and brain problems. The British team analyzed the neurological symptoms of 43 hospital patients. Among them, they observed ten cases of temporary brain dysfunction, twelve cases of brain inflammation, eight cases of stroke and eight cases of nerve damage. Most of these inflammation patients have been diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM, also known as post-infectious encephalitis), a rare condition commonly seen in children after viral infections. “We have identified a higher than expected number of people with neurological disorders (…), who were not always correlated with the severity of respiratory symptoms”, according to Michael Zandi, of the Queen Square Institute of Neurology at UCL.
The peculiarity in these patients lies in the fact that none of them has been diagnosed with neurological problems, suggesting that the virus is not present in the cerebrospinal fluid, in which the brain is bathed. This indicates that the Covid-19 did not directly attack the brain. “Since the disease has only been around for a few months, we don’t yet know what long-term damage Covid-19 can cause,” said Ross Paterson of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology. Physicians should be aware of the possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient health outcomes.”
Brain complications are not systematic
While brain damage from Covid-19 infection appears to be more common than expected, this does not mean that brain complications are systematic. “The great attention paid to this pandemic makes it very unlikely that there will be a large parallel pandemic of unusual brain damage associated with Covid-19,” said Anthony David, director of the Institute of Mental Health at UCL. Additional, long-term research is needed to better understand how Covid-19 leads to brain disorders and what its effects are over time.