Amid the rising fatalities of the coronavirus pandemic, a study has found that the COVID-19 virus is also capable of targetting the human brain and adversely affect neurons and brain cells, causing critical damage and even death.
COVID-19 brain infection
The researchers from the Yale School of Medicine claim they are releasing the first clear evidence of the coronavirus infecting the human brain and its neurons. The study also suggests that the COVID-19 virus is deadly not for its respiratory effects, but the damage it does via neuroinvasion.
According to ibTimes, the Yale study discovered that the coronavirus forced neurons to multiply but does not destroy them. Instead, the increased replication significantly obstructs nearby cells' oxygen supply, causing them to wither and ultimately die.
The research stated that the results it found provide evidence for the COVID-19 virus's capability to invade the brain and shows the dangerous effects of infection of the neurons.
Despite the study showing clear signs of the coronavirus's risks on the human brain, scientists are still unclear on how the virus actually manages to bypass the protections of the brain.
However, experts said that brain infection from the coronavirus is extremely rare but noted that some individuals are more susceptible due to genetic backgrounds or several other reasons.
An immunologist from Yale, Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, who also led the study, told reporters that in the case that the human brain becomes infected by the coronavirus, it could have fatal consequences.
Iwasaki's team also discovered alarming evidence that an immune response to fight against the coronavirus neuroinvasion among humans was not present. The expert called the virus's attack on the brain as a silent infection due to using a plethora of elusive mechanisms.
The severity of brain attacks
The study shows how the coronavirus differs from the zika virus, which also targets the human brain because when the zika infects cells, it prompts the body's immune response to destroy affected areas, which is not seen in the case of COVID-19, as reported by The Print.
Researchers also found that when the COVID-19 virus infects the brain, it reduces the number of synapses, which is the connection between two nerve cells.
A neuroscientist at the University of California, Dr. Alysson Muotri, spoke about synapses, stating that several days after the coronavirus's initial infection, a severe reduction of connections can be observed. She noted that they have yet to determine if the process is reversible or not.
A professor of neurology and ophthalmology, Dr. Maria Nagel, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said the study is the first to conduct an extensive analysis of the novel coronavirus brain infection.
According to Live Science, the experts noted that Yale researchers used three models. Previously, only rare case reports linked the COVID-19 virus to brain infection after discovering its RNA and viral particles during the post-mortem of deceased patients.
Researchers titled their study as "Neuroinvasion of SARS-CoV-2 in human and mouse brain," and published it in BioRxiv last week. However, the study has not yet been vetted.