It’s safe to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has left both healthcare workers and researchers stumped. There seems to be no limit to the effects the virus has on the body. From the lungs, to the blood vessels, Covid-19 seemed to evade every organ system’s defenses. And now, it has come for the brain.
Research has suggested that Covid-19 can cause a host of cognitive issues, such as brain fog, fatigue, and, in more severe cases, psychosis. But, up until now, researchers were unable to explain why they occurred. Some speculated it was because of the body responding to the virus’s attacks on other organs. Others thought it was because of the lack of oxygen caused by a severe Covid-19 infection. till today.
It’s pretty simple: the virus enters the brain and causes inflammation there. In fact, researchers at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine have found that the spike protein, or the red arms seen in pictures of the virus, can cross the blood-brain barrier.
The Covid-19 virus is made up of genetic information in the form of RNA, wrapped in a protein coat called a capsid, and decorated on the outside with little spikes of spike protein. That spike protein, also referred to as the S1 protein, is the component that determines which organs of the body the virus can infect. S1 protein can either directly bind the virus to its target organ, or it can detach itself, take a trip through the body’s blood vessels, and cause problems elsewhere.
In the brain’s case, that’s exactly what it does. The S1 protein detaches itself from the virus, takes a trip through the body’s blood vessels, and crosses the blood-brain barrier. Once it reaches the brain, it stimulates an immune response and causes inflammation of the neurons there. That inflammation leads to symptoms like brain fog, loss of concentration, headaches, and even the loss of smell and taste.
The inflammation in the brain could also explain some of the other effects of Covid-19. UW School of Medicine Researchers have said that the virus can enter the respiratory centers of the brain, or the parts of the brain that control our breathing. This could explain the breathing difficulties some people with Covid-19 experience.
These finds show that Covid-19 can attack any part of your body, from your lungs to your brain. If you can’t wear a mask to protect your other organs, wear it to protect your brain.
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