Coronavirus study may affect brain, even in asymptomatic patients

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A study by more than 70 Brazilian researchers indicates that the new coronavirus can affect the brain and cause the death of neurons, even in mild patients, who have not needed hospital treatment.

The research, published on Tuesday on the medRxiv scientific platform, but which is still under evaluation, indicates that the virus can promote significant changes in the structure of the cortex, the brain region that is richest in neurons and responsible for complex functions such as memory, attention, awareness and language.

“Patients with covid-19 may experience neuropsychiatric and / or neurological symptoms. We found that anxiety and cognitive impairment are manifested by 28-56% of individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 with mild respiratory symptoms or without respiratory symptoms and are associated with altered cerebral cortical thickness “, points out the study, coordinated by researchers from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the University of São Paulo (USP).

The investigation also found brain damage in 19% of individuals who died of covid-19 and were under analysis.

According to the researchers, when the new coronavirus enters the brain, it attacks cells responsible for the metabolic processes, hindering the production of energy and nutrition of neurons and can consequently lead to the death of brain tissue.

“All affected brain tissues exhibited foci of infection by SARS-CoV-2, particularly in astrocytes [células mais abundantes do sistema nervoso central]. Infection of astrocytes derived from neural stem cells altered energy metabolism, altered key proteins and metabolites used to feed neurons (…) and triggered a secretory phenotype that reduces neuronal viability “, he added.



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