SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can infiltrate star-shaped cells in the brain further triggering a chain reaction that may disable and even kill the nearby neurons, claims a new study that is yet to be peer-reviewed. The sheer ability of the ‘virus to get there’ has been regarded as the main message of the paper according to the author of the study Daniel Martins-de-Souza, and associate professor and the head of proteomics in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Campinas in Brazil.
As quoted by Live Science, de Souza said, “The main message in the paper is that the virus is able to get there, [into astrocytes]...It doesn't get there every time, but it can get there.” The star-shaped cells, called astrocytes are responsible for performing several roles including transmitting signals throughout the body and brain. The study, posted to the preprint database medRxiv earlier this month, and an expert told Live Science that the data is preliminary and it still needs to be verified with more enhanced research.
However, during the research, in a lab dish, the infected astrocytes ceased to produce the critical fuel for neurons and secreted an “unidentified” substance that poisoned nearby neurons. If the infected astrocytes behave similarly inside the brain, it could explain some of the structural changes that are witnessed in some of the COVID-19 patients’ brains along with other issues such as “brain fog” and psychiatric issues. However, other studies have also noted that the novel coronavirus can directly infect the neurons but the exact route of the pathogen to the brain is still under investigation.
A separate study led by UK’s biomedical research body said that the antibodies produced in the body due to COVID-19 stay in the system fo six months after the infection. After studying the biobank of more than 20,000 participants who had recovered from the highly-infectious disease. UK Biobank said in a new study that 99% retained antibodies to the coronavirus for three months post-infection and at least 88% did so for six months.