The novel coronavirus is treacherous: It not only affects the lungs, but also numerous other organs, such as the blood vessels. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven have now made another discovery: They were able to detect Sars-CoV-2 in the brains of three patients who had died of Covid-19.
How does Sars-CoV-2 get into the brain?
The examinations showed that the viruses were mainly present in the cortex. The so-called basal ganglia, however, were not affected. One of the patients probably died of encephalopathy: The viruses could also be detected in the brain at the edge of the infarction. Although he had antibodies in the CSF, the brain showed no evidence of inflammation.
The researchers assume that the virus also targets the nerve cells in the brain. So far, however, it is unclear how the viruses penetrate the brain. It is conceivable, for example, that it could spread through the bloodstream or spread directly through the nasal mucosa and olfactory cells into the brain.
For their investigations, the scientists used three-dimensional cell cultures – so-called “organoids” – to help them better examine certain brain cells. They found out that Sars-CoV-2 can infect the nerve cells of the brain without them dying off. The neurons themselves remained intact, but the cells in their vicinity died.