The Startling Way Coronavirus Alters Your Brain, Doctors Warn

New research suggests COVID-19 can lead to permanent neurological damage.

Of course you know about the havoc the coronavirus can wreak on your lungs. You might've also read about what it does to your blood, your kidneys, and your heart. But a new medical report has provided unsettling evidence as to how the COVID-19 contagion can enter one's brain and possibly cause permanent neurological damage.

The research, published in the Journal of American Medicine, focused on a 25-year-old coronavirus patient, whose brain scans revealed "viral brain invasion," which appears to have temporarily changed areas of her brain. The term for this is "neuroinvasion" and doctors believe that it may be partially responsible for the respiratory failure of coronavirus patients.

The patient in question is a radiographer who had been working in a COVID-19 ward, with no significant pre-existing conditions. After having a dry cough that lasted a day, she lost her sense of smell and taste, but had no other major symptoms such as a fever or shortness of breath. With no significant medical history—and other negative test results—a brain MRI was performed.

What the brain scans revealed led to what researchers believe to be "the first report of in vivo human brain involvement in a patient with COVID-19, showing a signal alteration compatible with viral brain invasion in a cortical region." In laymen's terms, the contagion is invading parts of neural cortex, which is affecting the patient's sense of taste, smell, and perhaps leading to larger respiratory problems. That said, according to the researchers, more studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn.

"We know from previous research that some individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection may develop neurological and psychiatric symptoms," John Hardy, chair of the Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at the University College London, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement via Science Media Centre. "What remains to be seen is to what extent symptoms are due to viral infection of the brain itself, or secondary effects including inflammation in the brain triggered by the immune system's response to the virus."

The study concludes by saying that it's not clear that all coronavirus patients suffer from "neuroinvasion" of the COVID-19, or if this perhaps may just be an early stage of the ill-effects of the virus. And for more ways coronavirus affects you overall, check out Here's How Coronavirus Affects Your Body, From Your Head to Toes.

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