Both during and after infection with the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, patients may suffer from severe neurological symptoms, including anosmia, the loss of taste and smell typically associated with COVID-19.
Along with direct damage caused by the virus, researchers suspect a role for excessive inflammatory responses in the disease.
In a new study from the Freiburg University, researchers found that a severe inflammatory response can develop in the central nervous system of COVID-19 patients involving different immune cells around the vascular system and in the brain tissue.
Until now, the inflammatory pattern in COVID-19 was poorly understood.
Even compared to other inflammatory brain diseases, the inflammatory responses triggered by COVID-19 are unique and indicate a severe disturbance of the brain’s immune response.
In particular, the essential defense cells of the brain, known as microglial cells, are particularly strongly activated, and we also observed migration of T-killer cells and the development of pronounced neuroinflammation in the brain stem.
In the study, the team used a novel measurement method to determine different cell types as well as virus-infected cells and their spatial interaction in previously unseen detail.
Even though there was already evidence of central nervous system involvement in COVID-19, the extent of inflammation in the brain surprised the researchers.
The team says the immune changes are particularly detectable near small brain vessels. In these areas, the viral receptor ACE2 is expressed, onto which the coronavirus can dock, and the virus was also directly detectable there.
It seems plausible that the immune cells recognize infected cells there and that inflammation then spreads to the nerve tissue, causing symptoms It is possible that early immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive treatment could reduce inflammation.
While scientists already knew that a strong immune response is needed for recovery from Coronavirus infection, apparently a misdirected immune response can cause severe damage.
If you care about COVID and brain health, please read studies about people with this brain disease may have a higher COVID-19 death risk and findings of these 2 common health problems may increase risk of COVID-19 brain damage.
For more information about COVID and brain diseases, please see recent studies about new details of brain damage caused by COVID-19 and results showing that even moderate COVID-19 can cause dangerous brain diseases.
The study is published in Immunity. One author of the study is Professor Dr. Marco Prinz.
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