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Penetrates directly into the brain: coronavirus can affect the nervous system and provoke a number of complications

Coronavirus infection is not limited to respiratory infections. As practical studies show, in a significant number of patients, the virus also affects the nervous system. Writes about this with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

The mechanism of its effect on nerve cells has not yet been studied, however, scientists have no doubt that there is some connection: a temporary loss of taste or smell was recognized as specific symptoms of Covid-19 back in mid-March.

In addition, from the nasopharynx, the virus is able to penetrate directly into the brain, and this, in turn, can provoke a number of complications, disrupting the normal functioning of almost any organ.

The list of possible comorbidities is huge, from digestive problems and vascular blockages to heart failure and encephalitis.

The many faces of the virus

Four months after the epidemic began, scientists still know very little about the disease-causing SARS-CoV-2 virus and its effect on the human body.

The overall picture of the infection is bit by bit, from hundreds of articles in scientific journals where doctors from around the world share their experience in treating coronavirus patients.

On the subject: Coronavirus has suspended vaccination against other diseases: the world is threatened by malaria and polio

As a result, the list of possible symptoms of Covid-19 continues to expand (there are already more than a dozen of them), and with it our ideas about what other organs the virus can infect and what complications the disease can turn into, in addition to pneumonia.

Most often, doctors describe disorders of the nervous system. Two studies at once - in France and in China - concluded that more than a third of those infected experience neurological symptoms in one form or another.

However, in general, a new infection is characterized by a much more versatile and even individual approach.

In the list of described complications of Covid-19, which doctors had to face in practice, there are diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, heart problems, and blood clotting disorders.

But the virus can also affect the nervous system in very different ways - it's not just about a temporary refusal of feelings.

In particular, several cases of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome, are described as side effects of Covid-19: the patient's immune system begins to attack its own nerve cells, which leads to muscle weakness, and in severe cases, to paralysis.

American doctors are alarmed by reports that in New York alone, five cases of major strokes were recorded in coronavirus patients in two weeks - and in relatively young people (under 50), without other pronounced symptoms of Covid-19.

According to preliminary data, as a side effect of inflammation, the coronavirus provoked the formation of blood clots in large vessels in them - which ultimately led to an acute violation of cerebral circulation.

However, mainly neurological disorders are still observed in severe patients. In such cases, these symptoms sometimes remain even after the recovery of patients from Covid-19.

Why are the complications so different?

The virus can disrupt the nervous system both indirectly, through excessive activation of the immune system (the so-called cytokine storm), and directly. This was revealed as a result of the autopsy of the bodies of the dead from Covid-19.

Viral particles in the victims were found including in the brain. There is a version that the infection gets there from the respiratory tract through the olfactory receptors in the nose.

This is not some unique ability of the new coronavirus. Several other viruses, including influenza and measles, can cause a similar infection of the brain - which also sometimes leads to neurological disease, although quite rarely.

On the subject: Research: masks from which tissues best protect against coronavirus

However, in the case of Covid-19, the situation is a little more complicated. Firstly, the number of infected has already exceeded 3 million, which means that even rare cases in the aggregate are quite a few. And secondly, if the virus does enter the brain, further infection is almost inevitable: the very membrane receptor ACE2 is present on the surface of the brain cells, through which the virus easily penetrates inside, causing inflammation.

The same receptor is also found in the cells lining the inner surface of blood vessels - therefore, in severe cases, the virus breaks out of the respiratory organs into the general bloodstream. As a result, thrombotic complications occur in almost every third patient with coronavirus pneumonia.

With blood, the virus can get into any organs, including the brain. However, according to the latest data, almost half of all infected carry Covid-19 without any symptoms at all.

Trying to understand why in some people the disease proceeds completely unnoticed, and in others it leads to such dire consequences, in Britain they studied several thousand pairs of identical twins.

According to preliminary data, the severity of the infection, many of its symptoms, and possibly the likelihood of infection, are pretty much dependent on genetic factors, that is, heredity.

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

  • Doctors in the United States and China note that among those infected, increased number of people with kidney failure. As a result, in hospitals, an acute shortage of hemodialysis machines (“artificial kidneys”), as well as medical staff who can handle such patients, not to mention the necessary drugs, is already noticeable.
brain Educational program coronavirus Special Projects

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