A postmortem analysis of the bodies of people who died from COVID-19 revealed something alarming: About half showed signs of the coronavirus in their brains.
The actual impacts of the neural infections seem mild at worst, according to research published Monday in The Lancet Neurology. But the revelation that the coronavirus can reach patients’ central nervous systems could help doctors make sense of the neurological conditions some COVID-19 patients experience and perhaps help them better treat the disease.
There are a lot of limitations to the study, MedPage Today reports, like how it only involved a sample size of only 40 cadavers of various ages.
But the team of researchers from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf did draw one conclusion. They think that neurological symptoms of COVID-19 are caused by the immune system’s response to the virus popping up in the brain — as it did in 21 of the cadavers — rather than the virus itself.
“We did not see more severe neuropathological changes in patients with high viral loads when compared to those with no presence of virus, yet the immune reaction to the virus in the brain — which we start to define in this study — is there,” neuropathologist Dr. Markus Glatzel told MedPage Today.
“This makes us think that the neuroimmune reaction may be a key factor explaining some of the neurological symptoms seen in COVID-19 patients,” he added.