One of the most mysterious—and alarming—consequences of COVID-19 is the neurological damage the virus can cause. Some of those infected with the novel coronavirus have reported a wide variety of brain-based symptoms, from headaches and dizziness to delirium and depression. Doctors like Dr. Mary Fowkes, a neuropathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, have discovered "significant" blood clots in the brain.
The experts' question, naturally, is how and why this is happening. A new study has a possible answer. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
A route to the brain
Originally, scientists theorized that the novel coronavirus attacked the brain directly. Some studies have suggested that may not be so, that COVID-19 affects certain neurons instead of the brain itself.
New research published Monday in the journal Neuroscience posits a potential pathway for the virus to the brain: Through the nose.
Analyzing autopsies of people who died of COVID-19, researchers in Berlin found that the virus was evident in nerve endings deep in the nasal passages, "where the throat meets the nasal cavity, and where odor receptors and perceptual cells converge," the New York Times says.
From there, the virus can invade the nervous system via nasal tissue that is in close connection with the body's neurological network, the scientists posit.
The virus may be "able to use the olfactory mucosa as a port of entry into the brain," said Dr. Frank Heppner, a neuropathologist at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin in Berlin and a co-author of the study.
'Long COVID' can linger in your head rent-free
Several studies have found that the coronavirus can have long-term neurological effects. An August study published in the Lancet found that 55% of people diagnosed with coronavirus reported neurological symptoms three months after their diagnosis, including confusion, brain fog, an inability to focus, personality changes, insomnia and loss of taste and/or smell.
In July, researchers at the University College of London said the coronavirus could cause "an epidemic of brain damage," referring to a similar phenomenon that occurred after the 1918 flu pandemic, which was also caused by a coronavirus.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.