Researchers used an MRI scanner and found damage to the olfactory bulb in the brain and also damage in the brain-stem. The study found no sign of coronavirus in the actual brain tissue, which led to a conclusion that the damage resulted from “the body’s inflammatory response to the virus”. The damaged brain tissue was surrounded by T-cells from the blood and the brain’s immune cells, pointing researchers to an immune reaction triggered by the virus. The study claimed that the damage did not look like it was associated with symptoms of “a lack of oxygen”.
However, the authors of the study did not rule out coronavirus pathogens infecting brain tissue completely, as they stated it “is possible that the virus was cleared from the brain by the time of death”.
The National Institutes of Health researchers found damage caused by thinning and leaky brain blood vessels in tissue samples from the patients who had succumbed to coronavirus.
Avindra Nath, the senior author of the study, said: “We found that the brains of patients who contract infection from SARS-CoV-2 may be susceptible to microvascular blood vessel damage”.
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, he added: “Our results suggest that this may be caused by the body’s inflammatory response to the virus.”
The clinical director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke added: “We hope these results will help doctors understand the full spectrum of problems patients may suffer.
“This so that we can come up with better treatments.”
The study was conducted on 19 deceased coronavirus patients.
The study group was composed of individuals aged five to 73.
All of the individuals had died from coronavirus, some after a short period, others after many months.
In the study, Dr. Nath said: “So far, our results suggest that the damage we saw may not have been not caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly infecting the brain.
“In the future, we plan to study how COVID-19 harms the brain’s blood vessels and whether that produces some of the short- and long-term symptoms we see in patients.”
Deaths from coronavirus is usually a result of complications of the respiratory system.
However, the findings in the recent study have revealed more about the neurological symptoms that many coronavirus sufferers have experienced.
These included mild to severe cognitive dysfunction, associated with migraines, dizziness, and loss of sense of smell.
Some of those who were involved in the study had neurological distress before they had died.
Every patient studied, except for one, had presented “microvascular injury” in MRI brain scans.
Stroke-like complications were revealed in ten patients, and the scans exposed damage that “corresponded to congested blood vessels”.