Coronavirus can infect brain tissue, affect memory, language: Brazilian study

Publish: 7:53 PM, October 17, 2020 | Update: 7:53:PM, October 17, 2020

SAO PAULO, – SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is capable of infecting brain tissue and affecting the structure of the cortex, a region of the brain responsible for functions such as memory, consciousness, and language, according to a Brazilian study released on Thursday.

“We demonstrated for the first time that the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects and replicates in astrocytes and this can decrease the viability of neurons,”
said Daniel Martins de Souza, a professor at the Institute of Biology at the University of Campinas (Unicamp).

According to the study, the coronavirus can affect astrocytes, the most abundant cells in the central nervous system, which perform functions such as
providing support and nutrients for neurons and regulating the concentration of neurotransmitters and other substances, such as potassium.

“The infection of this cell type was confirmed through experiments done with brain tissue from 26 patients who died from COVID-19,” the study said.

According to Martins de Souza, scientists used a technique known as immunohistochemistry, which involves using antibodies to detect certain
antigens in a tissue sample.

The presence of the virus was confirmed in 26 of the samples studied, and in five of them, certain alterations were found that suggested possible
damage to the central nervous system.

Eighty-one other patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms were also studied. The results showed a third of them exhibiting neurological or
neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as memory impairment, fatigue, headache, anxiety, and others, 60 days after acquiring the disease.

The study was conducted by scientists from Unicamp and the University of Sao Paulo (USP), with collaboration from scientists at the National
Laboratory of Biosciences, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and the D’Or Institute.