Preliminary research sheds light on a new point of entry for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Keeping up to date with the various ways in which the human body becomes vulnerable to infection remains prescient as numbers continue to climb across the country. Hospitals are overwhelmed and California has imposed stricter stay-at-home mandates to curb the spread.
A new study explains how the novel coronavirus manages to break through the blood-brain barrier and create mayhem when it comes to regulating our central nervous system.
Troubling autopsies reveal new pathways COVID-19 can strike
Scientists took samples of 33 recently deceased patients stricken with COVID-19. Researchers analyzed the cellular mucosal-nervous micromilieu, olfactory nervous tracts, and defined regions that make up the central nervous system during autopsy procedures.
They found evidence of viral RNA in the nasopharynx, which serves as the blood-brain barrier’s first line of defense against infection. What happens when this barrier is compromised?
Co-authors explained what happens when toxins and pathogens have the green light to infiltrate the brain and subsequently our central nervous system in the following press release.
“Some viruses, including a couple of coronaviruses, are especially sneaky and capable of slipping past this barrier. Unfortunately, SARS-CoV-2 might be one of them. In fact, some scientists think this could be what’s causing many of the neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19, including loss of smell and taste, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.”
How can this happen?
Scientists hypothesize it’s due to the spikey proteins that make up the SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Once these corrosive proteins break down the semipermeable wall of the blood-brain barrier it creates a “neural bridge” for this virus to cross and cause irreparable damage to our cognitive function. This is the reason why many people who apparently “recover” from the deadlier symptoms of fighting this respiratory disease report strange side effects after being released from the hospital. Such after-effects experienced by recovering COVID-19 patients are brain fog, strokes, vomiting, headaches, and inability to focus or do basic tasks.
Many have suffered from ocular emergencies post long hospital stays hooked up to a ventilator. Yet another way this virus hitches a ride into our system is by ocular transmission. If you’d like to learn more about how this virus can infiltrate and affect our eyes check out more here. Wearing goggles or sunglasses, washing your hands, and continuing to avoid touching your face with an unsanitary hand can help mitigate this risk.
Scientists also discovered traces of SARS-CoV-2 in the endothelial regions. The endothelial tissue serves as a single layer to protect our blood vessels which regulate oxygen and nutrients to be carried to our vital organs and tissues via the bloodstream. This could also be the reason why this virus gains VIP access to other vital organs, not just the ones that facilitate respiratory functions, to inflict irreparable damage such as instances of cardiac infarctions.
Further research is required to narrow down all points of entry vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Until then, experiments like this one will open the door to further understanding this ever-evolving novel coronavirus to strengthen our existing lines of defense against it.
How can we protect ourselves with this new information?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, research has shown one of the first sites of infection is in our upper nasal cavity, (and the reason why testing for traces of viral RNA is so uncomfortable.)
It’s important to get tested often, especially if you experience any symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus mentioned earlier. Having access to proper testing and tracing methods will help stop the spread.
One other invaluable mode of protection is to, you guessed it, wear a mask! Transmission rates are much lower if everyone teams up properly for this group project to manage the chaos COVID-19 has sown this year. It’s an easy and affordable way to protect yourself and others.
We are constantly learning new information about this virus and how it mutates, enters, and wreaks havoc on our internal functions so it’s best to keep informed and heed CDC warnings.
Scientists share a few more important things they learned after performing those autopsies.
“While it might not be possible to see how the virus travels inside individual brain cells, in some patients the same spike proteins found on the outside of SARS-CoV-2 were also found in cells the researchers identified as neurons. if it turns out that neurons in the nose are transporting SARS-CoV-2 to the brain, in all likelihood, that’s probably just one port of entry. In the analysis, some brain regions with traces of RNA held no direct connection to the olfactory mucosa and were more involved with respiration and cardiovascular control, which suggests the virus is entering through another means as well.”
Remember folks, with cases on the rise and hospitals overrun and overwhelmed with acute cases of COVID-19 this month it’s important to stay safe, stay home — unless you need essential items — and wear a mask.