Study: Coronavirus capable of invading brain

Headaches, confusion and delirium experienced by some Covid-19 patients could be the result of the coronavirus directly invading the brain, according to a study published Wednesday.

The research is still preliminary — but offers several new lines of evidence to support what was previously a largely untested theory.

According to the paper, which was led by Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki, the virus is able to replicate inside the brain, and its presence starves nearby brain cells of oxygen, though the prevalence of this is not yet clear.

S Andrew Josephson, chair of the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco, praised the techniques used in the study and said “understanding whether or not there is direct viral involvement of the brain is extraordinarily important.”

But he added that he would remain cautious until the paper underwent peer review.

It wouldn’t be completely shocking if SARS-CoV-2 is capable of breaching the blood-brain-barrier, a structure which surrounds the brain’s blood vessels and tries to block foreign substances.

Zika virus, for instance, also does this — leading to significant damage to the brains of fetuses.

But doctors had believed until now that the neurological impacts seen in about half of all patients could instead be the result of an abnormal immune response known as a cytokine storm that causes inflammation of the brain — rather than the virus invading directly. (AFP)

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