Brain damage in individuals with Covid-19 – LORAzepamum Medical Blog
A Study Reveals Brain Damage in COVID-19 Patients
A recent study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shed light on the impact of COVID-19 on the brain. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found evidence of damage to the brain’s blood vessels in tissue samples from patients who died shortly after contracting the virus. Surprisingly, no traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were found in the samples, suggesting that the damage was not a result of a direct viral attack.
Dr. Avindra Nath, the senior author of the study and director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), explained that the findings indicate a susceptibility to microvascular blood vessel damage in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. This damage is likely caused by the body’s inflammatory response to the virus. Dr. Nath believes that these results will help doctors better understand the range of difficulties patients may face and develop more effective treatments.
While COVID-19 primarily affects the respiratory system, many patients also experience neurological symptoms such as delirium, headaches, cognitive dysfunction, loss of smell, dizziness, and fatigue. In some cases, the disease can lead to strokes and other neurological complications. Previous studies have shown that COVID-19 can cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels. In one study, small amounts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were found in the brains of some patients. However, scientists are still working to fully comprehend how the virus affects the brain.
For this study, researchers examined brain tissue samples from 19 patients who had died after contracting COVID-19 between March and July 2020. The samples were provided by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in New York City and the pathology department at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. The patients ranged in age from 5 to 73 years old and died within hours to two months after experiencing symptoms. Many of them had pre-existing risk factors such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Some patients died at home or in public settings, while others collapsed suddenly.
To investigate the brain damage, the researchers used a highly sensitive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to examine samples from the olfactory bulbs and brainstems, which are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. The scans revealed the presence of bright spots indicating inflammation and dark spots suggesting bleeding. Further analysis under a microscope showed that the bright spots contained thinner blood vessels and leaked blood proteins, triggering an immune response. The dark spots, on the other hand, exhibited both clotted and leaky blood vessels but no immune response.
Dr. Nath expressed surprise at the findings, as the damage observed resembled that typically associated with strokes and neuroinflammatory diseases rather than oxygen deprivation. Importantly, no signs of SARS-CoV-2 infection were detected in the brain tissue samples, despite various techniques used to detect viral genetic material or proteins.
The researchers now plan to investigate how COVID-19 affects the brain’s blood vessels and whether this contributes to the short- and long-term symptoms observed in patients. Understanding these mechanisms will be crucial in developing effective treatments for COVID-19-related neurological complications.