Neurological problems are the most common complication of Ccovid-19 outside the pulmonary system and affect more than 30% of patients.. Memory loss, lack of focus and attention, slow thinking, drowsiness, excessive fatigue, anxiety, depression, language difficulties and other cognitive and brain damage can be some of the effects of the disease.
The conclusions are from a study coordinated by the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the University of São Paulo (USP) and was recently published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Symptoms are usually associated mainly with severe cases, but also affect those who have had moderate or mild cases of the disease.refers to the publication.
Daniel Martins de Souza, professor of biochemistry at UNICamp and one of the researchers, says.
“Covid-19 is able to modify the brain and its cortical structure with or without the presence of the virus in the brain. The disease is able to do this” – Image: Pixabay
In cases where the corona virus reaches the brain, it mainly infects astrocytes – The most abundant brain cell responsible for maintaining and nourishing neurons. Neurons feeding on the affected astrocytes end up weakened or die. Astrocytes are the primary site of infection and possibly viral replication in the brain.
“The virus was not in the brain of everyone with neurological symptoms. Sometimes symptoms come from systemic inflammation due to disease‘ explains Martins de Sousa. Cases in which the virus reaches the brain can be more serious, but we cannot say for sure,” notes the biologist, physician, and Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry from Unicamp and with experiences in postdoctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute for Medicine Psychology in Germany and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
The researchers will continue to follow study patients, which may bring more answers in the future, for example, when checking whether the neurological effects will be transient or permanent. The research also found evidence of an association between Covid-19 and neurodegeneration, but the data is preliminary. As the investigation continues, the researchers also want to determine if the virus causes similar changes in other organs, which could shorten treatment pathways.
The study used a variety of methodology
The group of 89 researchers from Unicamp and USP An MRI was used to compare the brain structure of 81 healthy people with 81 people who may have had the original strain of Sars-Cov-2 and had been recovering from mild or moderate Covid-19 for about two months.
“To a greater or lesser degree, all sufferers had significant changes in the brain,” Martins de Souza comments.
in some cases, Scans revealed atrophy in the front of the brain, an area important for thinking and attention and associated with anxiety and depression. “Tests showed more symptoms depression and anxiety In these patients and we were able to verify that it’s not just about the fact that we’re in a pandemic.”
Some of those infected with the disease also underwent tests for cognitive function and did worse than those who did not develop the infection.. The study also analyzed the brain structure of 26 patients who died of Covid-19 and found severe damage in five of them. Only in the deceased was it possible to determine whether or not the virus was present in that organ.
For Pamela Peleg-Mello Karp, a neuroscientist in the biological neuroscience of learning and memory who was not involved in the study, an important point in the work was the use of different research methods. Therefore, the associate professor at the Federal University of Pampa (Unipampa) says that “the set of results allowed us to come to a more accurate result and, without any doubt, contributed to the expansion of the world’s science to understanding the pathophysiology of the disease.”
A Brazilian study shows the effects of Covid on the brain
Research conducted by Unicamp and USP It was funded mainly by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp) and lasted about a year and a half. He started working when he thought Covid-19 was just a respiratory disease. Analyzed patients contracted the coronavirus between March and July 2020 and, on average, fell ill for two months.
“What sparked this particular interest for us was the fact that patients were experiencing anosmia, which is a brain-mediated mechanism. This made us think it could have some implications for the brain,” says Martins-de-Souza Martins-de. Souza.
Prior to being published in PNAS, the results of the research were published, in October 2020, as a kind of preview of the study that is still without peer review, before being submitted for publication in a scientific journal. However, the research was not officially published until last week. Martins-de-Souza highlights the fact that the study is 100% Brazilian and delivers unprecedented results.
“Actually, scientific journals didn’t trust the data much at the time. After other studies in the area were published, we were able to publish them, but We were the first group in the world to spread what we revealed. The introductory edition has already contained 70 quotes and it has the good part in showing who set foot first,” he says.
says Mateos de Castro Fonseca, a research associate in Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen, the Neuroscience Research Building at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Research is essential to developing a treatment
The research has not identified ways to prevent or mitigate brain damage from Covid-19, other than trying not to get sick.. However, the area has stimulated researchers to find new routes.
“Now that we have a large number of post-infection patients to analyze, Numerous studies around the world have shown chronic damage to cognition, working memory, and even fine motor control, such as tremors.”, notes Matthews de Castro Fonseca, MSc in Cell Biology and Doctor of Physiology and Pharmacology from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
He and Pamela Peleg note the Milo Carb rehabilitation strategies that can be used. “Cognitive functions can be trained in general, since our nervous system has an important function, called neuroplasticity, which allows it to change according to the stimuli it receives,” explains the doctor in physiological sciences from the Federal University of Rio Grande. do Sul (UFRGS).
“In order to develop specific treatments, it is essential to know the mechanisms involved in generating consequences, so encouraging research is essential,” the professor adds.
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