SARS-CoV-2: attack on neurons

Apparently, the new coronavirus moves from one neuron to another, although how is not yet known.

COVID-19 is more than a disease of the respiratory tract: in addition to the heart and lungs, it affects the central nervous system. Frank Heppner, from the Charité Hospital in Berlin, and his team analyzed different tissue samples from 33 patients, with an average age of 72 years, who had died from the new coronavirus. Using an electron microscope and special staining, they visualized intact SARS-CoV-2 virus particles inside the nerve cells of the olfactory mucosa, as well as in the processes of the lining cells present there.

In addition, the researchers found the coronavirus in different regions of the brain, for example, those that regulate respiratory activity. It is still unknown how the virus passes from the olfactory mucosa to the brain [ see ” What we know about changes in the nervous system due to COVID-19 “; by Stephani Sutherland; Mind and Brain , n. or 108, 2021]. Still, they suspect that it moves from neuron to neuron. It could also be carried by blood vessels to the brain. In addition, it is unknown if this process occurs the same in people who do not have any serious disease.

The image on the left shows a nerve cell infected by SARS-CoV-2 ( pink ) and stained by immunofluorescence within the olfactory mucosa. The coronavirus particles appear in yellow and the lining cells in blue. The electron microscope image to the side is of a cell from the olfactory mucosa. Intact virus particles appear red and cilia appear brown.