Covid-19 update: Researchers say SARS-CoV-2 impacts respiratory centre of the brain

Covid-19 has another blow for all of us. Indian researchers say that SARS-CoV-2 impacts the respiratory centre of the brain, which leads to breathlessness in patients.
Yup, covid-19 can also reach the brain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 22 Jun 2020, 11:42 am IST
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One of the major symptoms of covid-19 is breathlessness, which makes your lungs the most vulnerable organ when it comes to coronavirus. In fact, according to researchers, the lungs are massively affected by the infection. Turns out, unfortunately, your lungs are not the only organ impacted by this virus. Covid-19 also impacts the brain. 

A team of researchers at CSIR – Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), Kolkata has explored the neuro-invasive potential of covid-19 and is now suggesting that the virus may infect the respiratory centre of the brain.

Covid-19 virus impacts the brain area which controls our breathing
The paper published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience and supported by Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), implies that coronavirus could enter the human brain through the nose and reach the olfactory bulb of the brain.  

depression affects the brain
Covid-19 impacts the respiratory centre of our brain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

From there, the virus might infect PreBotzinger complex (PBC), the primary centre of the brain that controls the respiratory rhythm generation. Due to this, initially, a covid-19 positive patient might get breathing issues.

The team of researchers comprising Dr. Prem Tripathi, Dr. Upasana Ray, Dr. Amit Srivastava and Dr. Sonu Gandhi suggested that while the lungs are one of the most infected organs, several other organs, including the brain, are also affected by covid-19. This is the first report that highlights that SARS-CoV-2 may target the PBC of the brainstem that controls respiration and causes the respiratory collapse of covid-19 patients, the statement added.

The researchers are still understanding how this virus enters the brain
The scientists have suggested that cerebrospinal fluid of covid-19 patients and postmortem of the brain of the deceased should be assessed to better understand the route of SARS-CoV-2 entry and its spread to the respiratory centre of the brain.

“It is possible that SARS-CoV-2 may shut down the respiratory centre, and in turn breathing by infecting and destroying the PBC of the brainstem,” it said, adding that this hypothesis needs to be validated for SARS-CoV-2.

Loss of smell is another major symptom of covid-19
Another recent study from a group of scientists at King’s College London, UK highlighting that loss of smell as one of the main symptoms of covid-19, hints at the involvement of the cerebrospinal fluid. 

The study highlights that it is important to not only screen covid-19 patients for neurological symptoms but also segregate when the symptom appears. 

We need to understand that the brain is not the primary target of covid-19 but the area it is impacting in the brain is causing respiratory issues which is leading to the death of the patients. 

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“Postmortem of the brain of covid-19 patients could be assessed to know the route of entry and affected areas including a detailed assessment of respiratory centre of the brain,” the statement added.

According to the researchers, this finding might help them learn about mortality due to coronavirus.

(With inputs from PTI)

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