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Current Affairs

Signs of brain damage in deceased Covid patients

Date: 03 January 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

In an in-depth study of how Covid-19 affects a patient’s brain, researchers have spotted hallmarks of damage in tissue samples from deceased patients of the disease. 

 

Background

The damage to tissue samples was caused by thinning and leaky brain blood vessels. Yet the researchers saw no signs of SARS-CoV-2 in the tissue samples. This suggests that the damage was not caused by a direct viral attack on the brain.

 

Details

  • In this study, the researchers conducted an in-depth examination of brain tissue samples from 19 patients who had died after experiencing Covid-19 between March and July 2020.

  • The patients died at a wide range of ages, from 5 to 73 years old. They died within a few hours to two months after reporting symptoms.

  • Many patients had one or more risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

  • Researchers suspect that the brains of patients who contract infection from SARS-CoV-2 may be susceptible to microvascular blood vessel damage. The results suggest that this may be caused by the body’s inflammatory response to the virus.

  • Although Covid-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, patients often experience neurological problems including headaches, delirium, cognitive dysfunction, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of the sense of smell. The disease may also cause patients to suffer strokes.

  • Several studies have shown that the disease can cause inflammation and blood vessel damage. In one of these studies, researchers found evidence of small amounts of SARS-CoV-2 in some patients’ brains.

 

Observations

  • Initially, the researchers used a special, high-powered MRI scanner to examine samples of the olfactory bulbs and brainstems from each patient.

  • The scans revealed that both regions had an abundance of bright spots (called hyperintensities) that often indicate inflammation, and dark spots (called hypointensities) that represent bleeding.

  • The researchers then used the scans as a guide to examine the spots more closely under a microscope.

  • They found that the bright spots contained blood vessels that were thinner than normal and sometimes leaking blood proteins, like fibrinogen, into the brain.

  • This appeared to trigger an immune reaction. The spots were surrounded by T cells from the blood and the brain’s own immune cells called microglia. 

  • In contrast, the dark spots contained both clotted and leaky blood vessels but no immune response.