Scientists experimenting in the lab have found that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is capable of infecting two types of brain cells — neurons and astrocytes.
The findings could shed light on a possible reason for the bewildering array of neurological symptoms that follow some COVID-19 survivors even after they recover.
COVID-19 is best known as a respiratory disease, but for many victims, it also triggers an array of problems including memory lapses, fatigue and a certain sluggish, fuzzy feeling often referred to as “brain fog.”
Scientists have been trying to understand why and how a coronavirus infection causes these issues in the brain, said study leader Diana Cruz-Topete, a molecular endocrinologist at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport. ADVERTISING Newsletter
Is the virus causing these problems indirectly — for example, by causing significant inflammation or clotting? Or is it causing them directly, by infecting cells in the brain?
Theoretically, the latter would be a tricky proposition since it would depend on two things. The first is whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus can attack cells of the central nervous system. The second is whether the virus can gain access to the brain, which is protected by a semipermeable barrier that can block out pathogens and other harmful particles while still allowing nutrients and other key molecules to make it through.