COVID-19 News: Latest Study Confirms That SARS-CoV-2 Is Able To Infect The Brain And Cause Neurological Issues
: Despite a variety of neurological conditions being manifested in both COVID-1 patients and also in ‘recovered’ patients, such as headache, anosmia, ageusia, fatigue, confusion, seizure, and encephalopathy, scientist were not able to determine the way the virus was able to cross the brain barrier or ways it infected the central nervous system and there was no direct evidence. It was even hypothesized in the beginning that it was perhaps the effects of the cytokine storm that was causing these neurological problems.
Conceptual graph of SARS-CoV-2 infecting human brain
organoids. Credit: SIAT
But a new study confirms that the SARS-CoV-2coronavirus can infect the brain as researchers demonstrated it by using human neural progenitor cells and brain organoids. The study was conducted by researchers from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators from The University of Hong Kong (HKU).
The study findings were published in the journal: Cell Research https://www.nature.com/articles/s41422-020-0390-x
The COVID-19 disease is caused by SARS-CoV-2, also known as the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Over 23 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 812,218 associated deaths have been reported across 218 countries and geographical regions as of August 26.
Although this novel coronavirus primarily causes respiratory illness with clinical manifestations largely resembling those of SARS, a variety of neurological symptoms are also being seen in COVID-19 patients.
A recent study of 214 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Wuhan reported that 36.4% of all patients and 45.5% of severe cases had neurologic symptoms. In addition, studies from France and Germany have revealed that 84.5% and 36.4%, respectively, of COVID-19 patients had viral infections in the brain.
Importantly, however, there has been no direct experimental evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the human central nervous system (CNS).
In order to explore the direct involvement of SARS-CoV-2 in the CNS in physiologically relevant models, the research team assessed SARS-CoV-2 infection in human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs), neurospheres and brain organoids derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
The study results demonstrated that iPSC-derived hNPCs were permissive to SARS-CoV-2 infection, but not SARS-CoV infection. Extensive protein expression and infectious viral particles were detected in neurospheres and brain organoids infected with SARS-CoV-2, which suggested SARS-CoV-2 could productively infect the human brain.
Significantly, SARS-CoV-2 infection in 3-D human brain organoids was localized to TUJ1 (neuronal marker) and NESTIN (NPC marker)-positive cells, suggesting SARS-CoV-2 could directly target cortical neurons and NPCs.
Professor Dr Huang Jiandong from HKU, who led the study told Thailand Medical News, "Overall, our study provides the first evidence of direct SARS-CoV-2 infection in
human brain organoids, which contributes to our understanding of the pathogenesis of neurological complications in COVID-19."
The study team suggested that chronic and long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection of the CNS should be closely monitored.
A growing concern is the increasing reports of a variety of neurological manifestations in ‘recovered’ COVID-19 patients.
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