Signs of leaking blood vessels and a leaking blood protein called fibrinogen were detected in the brains of post-mortem patients who had tested positive for coronavirus in a study shared in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The damaged vessels have been attributed to inflammation as a result of the body’s immune system overreacting while trying to fight off the viral infection. The presence of T cells, a type of immune cell, further indicated the occurrence of inflammation in the brain.
While traces of the virus were not found directly in the brain, the researchers do point out that it might have cleared by the time of death or were unable to be detected by the analysis. Nevertheless, the research provides evidence that the virus is affecting the brain, albeit indirectly, and could indicate long-term structural damage in certain regions of the brain following infection.
Areas of the brain found to show abnormalities through MRI scanning were the olfactory bulb, responsible for processing smells, and the brainstem, which is responsible for basic functions such as sleeping and eating. However, the researchers were not able to conclude that the neurological symptoms of coronavirus experienced by some are the result of the detected blood vessel damage. Further research aims to address this.
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