Coronavirus causes stroke in young people: here's how the virus gets into the brain

It is know that COVID can cause neurological damage. But the virus can also trigger severe strokes. A new study provides deeper insights into this.

Loss of taste and smell are among the most recognised corona symptoms at a very early stage. But these symptoms are due to a neurological attack of the virus.

A new study reveals that many people, including the young, can suffer a stroke from a coronavirus infection.

The coronavirus can cause severe strokes

According to a statement by the German Society for Neurology (DGN), 'diffuse brain damage' can occur in the context of a COVID infection.

These can occur alongside a host of neurological and psychiatric abnormalities or lead to inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, or simply to strokes.

It can also affect people who have neither pre-existing conditions nor cardiovascular problems. Severe brain damage often occurs even in younger patients.

This is what a study in the journal Stroke reports: 46% of COVID patients in hospital who suffered a stroke are younger than 65 and 36% of them were even younger than 55.

Strokes are normally rare in this age group, usually occurring after the age of 65. A study from Berlin investigated how the virus gets into the brain.

A way into the brain

Prof. Dr. Frank Heppner, Director of Neuropathology at the Charité in Berlin, and his team were investigating how the coronavirus can penetrate the brain.

The findings of this investigation have now been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The researchers examined tissue samples from 33 people.

They all died of their COVID-19 and were on average just under 72 years old. The samples were taken from the olfactory mucosa and four different brain regions.

The olfactory mucosa is the gateway of the virus

The analyses detect intact virus particles in various structures that connect the eyes, mouth and nose with the brain stem.

The researchers observed the highest virus concentration in the olfactory mucosa. Professor Heppner declared in a press release of the Berlin Charité:

Based on these data, we assume that SARS-CoV-2 can use the olfactory mucosa as a portal of entry into the brain.

This concentration of virus particles in the olfactory mucosa can perhaps also explain the frequent disturbances of the sense of smell and taste in a corona infection.

However, the reliability of these results is limited by the fact that only tissue samples from deceased COVID patients, i.e. severe cases, were evaluated for the study.

There's also the sticking point that these results do not show how things behave with moderate or mild courses. It is also unclear how exactly the virus spreads in the brain.

Does it travel from nerve cell to nerve cell or does the blood vessels transport it? The coronavirus will continue to puzzle scientists worldwide for quite some time, even after the pandemic passes on.

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