image | Reference

 In a recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, researchers often observed signs of damage caused by narrowing and leakage of cerebral blood vessels in tissue samples of patients who died immediately after acquiring coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). However, they did not detect any signs of infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the collected samples, which may suggest that the damage was not caused by direct virus infection.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, add to the growing body of evidence that infection from COVID-19 has some form of neurological impact. There have been widespread reports of those with the virus experiencing symptoms such as delirium, fatigue, headaches, loss of smell, and taste. The disease also causes patients to suffer from other neuropathologies such as stroke. While no evidence of the virus has been found, researchers are still trying to understand how COVID-19 affects the brain.

The research team analyzed brain tissue samples from 19 patients who died shortly after contracting the disease, ranging in age from five to 73 years old. The time of death varies from a few hours after receiving COVID-19 for up to 2 months. Many patients had one or more risks such as obesity, diabetes, and other heart issues.

Using a powerful 4- to 10-fold magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner as the most common MRI scans, investigators examined olfactory bulbs and brainstems of tissue samples. They noticed that both regions showed a lot of light and dark areas, indicating swelling and bleeding.

Then they examined the samples under a microscope and found that bright spots showed narrowing of blood vessels that leaked proteins to the brain, creating an immune response. They also noticed that dark spots were thick and leaky, blood vessels but no physical response. However, using several methods to obtain genetic material or proteins from SARS-CoV-2, they found no evidence of infection in tissue samples.

"We have found that the brains of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 infection can contribute to damage to the small blood vessels. Our results suggest that this may be due to the immune response to the virus," said Ravindra Nath, lead author of the study. "We hope that these results will help clinicians understand the full range of problems patients may face so that we can find better treatment options."