New Delhi: Covid-19 infection may cause long-term brain damage, a study of MRI scans of recovered patients has found.
According to the study published in medical journal TheLancet, “neurological symptoms were presented in 55% COVID-19 patients” during the recovery stage. These symptoms were noted during the follow-up visits three months later.
Called ‘Cerebral Micro-Structural Changes in COVID-19 Patients – An MRI-based 3-month Follow-up’, the study was done by reading Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of 60 Covid-19 patients.
MRI scans use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images from the insides of a body.
On comparing head MRIs of the Covid-19 patients with those not infected by the virus, the researchers noted structural changes relating to loss of smell and memory in the recovered patients.
“Our findings revealed possible disruption to micro-structural and functional brain integrity in the recovery stages of Covid-19, suggesting neuro-invasion potential of SARS-CoV-2,” said the study published on 3 August.
The 11 Chinese researchers, who authored the study, also noted, “Even if the patients recover well from the pneumonia condition, the neurological changes may cause a great burden.”
They added, “…more research in the mechanism and route of neuro-invasion of SARS-CoV-2 is expected.”
How the study was carried out
The researchers have highlighted how “in light of the neurological invasion of SARS-CoV proved by abundant studies, it is plausible to hypothesise that SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to attack the central nervous system as well”.
They have quoted a 2005 study that found a few patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had experienced central nervous symptoms during the course of their illness.
To see if a similar condition exists in the latest context, researchers studied MRI scans of the 60 Covid-19 patients and compared them with 39 non-Covid-19 people matching in age and gender.
They found that recovered Covid-19 patients were more likely to have enlarged olfactory cortices, hippocampi, insulas, Heschl’s gyrus, Rolandic operculum and cingulate gyrus — all of which are parts of the human brain.
The researchers also recorded a general decline in functioning of brain parameters such as mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity and radial diffusivity. These are used to assess working of the brain nerves.
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