From ‘severe’ inflammation to neuron death: Covid has ‘lingering’ impacts on brain – study

Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus

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Oxford University first shed the light on the connection between coronavirus and long-term brain effects. They found that participants infected with the virus showed “greater cognitive decline”. Now, the new study from Tulane University reports other more “severe” impacts, including neuron death and brain inflammation.

From headaches to confusion, there’s plenty of neurological symptoms linked to COVID-19.

However, the exact way how the virus targets the brain during an infection wasn’t fully understood.

The new study published in Nature Communications has found that the virus can lead to:

  • Severe brain inflammation 
  • Injury consistent with reduced blood flow or oxygen to the brain (including neuron damage and death)
  • Small bleeds in the brain.

“Surprisingly”, these effects were present in participants that didn’t experience severe disease from Covid.

These findings are considered to be “the first comprehensive assessment of neuropathology” linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection in a primate model.

The researchers explained that findings were consistent with autopsy studies of people who have died due to coronavirus.

This suggests that non-human primates may serve as a model, or proxy, for how humans experience the disease, the study shared. 

One of the lead researchers at the Tulane National Primate Research Center, Tracy Fischer, started examining the brain tissue of several infected subjects back in 2020.

Fischer’s initial findings regarding the brain damage were “striking”.

The expert said: “Because the subjects didn’t experience significant respiratory symptoms, no one expected them to have the severity of disease that we found in the brain.

“But the findings were distinct and profound, and undeniably a result of the infection.”

The study explained that neurological complications are “often among the first symptoms” of Covid.

What’s more, they affect people no matter the age with varying degrees of disease severity.

Fischer hopes that this and future studies that look into the relationship of SARS-CoV-2 and the brain will contribute to the understanding and treatment of patients suffering from the neurological consequences of COVID-19 and long COVID.

Although brain symptoms, including brain fog, are a possible symptom of long Covid, the virus can target various parts of your body.


What are the symptoms of long Covid?

According to the NHS, “common” symptoms of the long-term condition include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Problems with memory and concentration (brain fog)
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tinnitus, earaches
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • High temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • Rashes.

The health service recommends contacting your GP if you’re worried about symptoms that last four weeks or more after the initial infection.

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