Can Coronavirus affect the brain? It’s beginning to look like yes

So far we have thought of Covid-19 as a respiratory disease. The symptoms*are pretty well-known to most people by now, as we also know that they vary a lot between different patients. But what if we are missing a trick? What if the thing is zeroing in on our nervous systems? And what havoc could that wreak?

According to a very well-researched article in New Scientist, Jessica Hamzelou* is finding more and more evidence that it could. We all know that many Covid-19 patients are presenting with some neurological symptoms, mainly loss of smell and taste. But Jessica reports that some neurologists are becoming worried by Covid-19 patients who are presenting with more acute brain symptoms such as encephalitis.

Good thinker that she is, Jessica presents a null hypothesis. We at LSS love a good null hypothesis. The damage to the brain is caused not by the virus, but by loss of oxygen due to acute respiratory failure, cytokine storms-all the usual suspects in fact.

Yet the evidence points to a different, and more sinister, explanation. Firstly, we know well that other coronaviruses such as HCoV-OC43 can indeed enter the nervous system and brain. And so can the SARS virus, which we all know is like SARS-CoV-2 ‘s mortiferous elder brother. Once in, what harm can it do? Well, we saw loss of taste and encephalitis above. There is also the risk of post viral fatigue syndrome, and a rather unpleasant disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which presents as a creeping paralysis. And never forget that some viruses, such as Herpes simplex virus can lie low in the nervous system for years, only emerging long after the initial infection has passed.

So what can be done? The first thing is to read Jennifer’s article. It is a least a month later than most of the other literature, so it’s bang up to date. Secondly-we are not medically trained. But it’s common sense to think that, if you are going back to work or socialising again, to still be very cautious. Our last thoughts- that this is the tip of an iceberg. If the virus has a neurological action, its effect on the growing brains of young people could be very dangerous. So, perhaps a little more spending on this, and a little less on road by-passes might be a very good investment indeed.

#newscientist #jessicahamzelou #SARS #SARS-CoV-2 -covid19 #encephalitis #neurologist

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