The insidious way COVID invades our brains

Credit: Miles Fujimoto/UA College of Science
Credit: Miles Fujimoto/UA College of Science

In a review paper published [September 22], researchers put spotlight on the potential long-term neurological consequences of COVID-19, dubbing it the ‘silent wave’. They are calling for urgent action to be taken to have available more accurate diagnostic tools to identify neurodegeneration early on and a long-term monitoring approach for people who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The researchers report that neurological symptoms in people infected with the virus have ranged from severe, such as brain hypoxia (lack of oxygen), to more common symptoms such as loss of smell.

“We found that loss of smell or reduced smell was on average reported in three out of four people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While on the surface this symptom can appear as little cause for concern, it actually tells us a lot about what’s happening on the inside and that is that there’s acute inflammation in the olfactory system responsible for smell,” explained Florey researcher Leah Beauchamp.

Inflammation is understood to play a major role in the pathogenesis of neurogenerative disease.

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“We believe that loss of smell presents a new way forward in detecting someone’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease early. Armed with the knowledge that loss of smell presents in around 90% of people in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and a decade ahead of motor symptoms, we feel we are on the right track,” added Ms Beauchamp.

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