In early 2020, COVID appeared to be mostly respiratory, with blame for the shattering of delicate lung tissues initially placed on the violent "cytokine storms" unleashed from overactive immune responses. At first, autopsy series focused on the inflammation and antibodies, not finding evidence of the virus itself. But that view has changed.
As the fourth year of the pandemic dawns, a study published in Nature from Daniel Chertow, MD, MPH, head of the Emerging Pathogens Section at the NIH Clinical Center and colleagues, finds the virus in many body parts – particularly, the brain. The discovery may explain cases of long COVID.
Indirect Attack on the Brain
At first, researchers thought the role of the virus on the brain was indirect.
In July 2022, Avindra Nath, MD, clinical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and colleagues reported in the journal Brain changes in the brains of nine people who died quickly from COVID. Autopsies revealed antibodies glommed onto viral antigens on the tile-like endothelial cells that form the blood-brain barrier. As capillaries disintegrated, the risk of stroke skyrocketed amid catastrophic destruction.
The COVID-infected brain is a mess.
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