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Covid-19 enters the brain from the nose, reveals a new study

Viral RNA debris found in the nasopharynx and brain amplify the theory that Covid-19 is much more than a respiratory disease.

To enter the body and begin to replicate inside it, the virus that causes Covid-19 needs to come into contact with the mucosa present in the nose, mouth, or eyes. The membrane that covers these tissues is full of ACE2 cell receptors, an enzymatic protein present in most of the body.

ACE2 cell receptors are the gateway to Covid-19: the SARS-CoV-2 protein S is the ‘key’ that allows it to parasitize a cell and turn it into a virus factory that, in turn, will take control of the cells. cells around it.

This is the reason why Covid-19 causes greater damage to the lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and organs where there is a greater amount of ACE2 proteins; However, the mechanism that the virus uses to reach the brain and cause increasingly common neurological problems in hospitals.

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A new study carried out at the Charité University Hospital of the Free University of Berlin performed 33 autopsies on victims of severe Covid-19 and discovered genetic material of the virus present in both the nasopharynx (the upper throat region behind the nose) as in the brain.

The scientists found the highest viral load in the nasopharynx, an indication that the virus has the ability to pierce the membranes and reach the nerve cells of the olfactory mucosa that connect the nose with the region of the brain in charge of processing information regarding smell.

The finding published in Nature neuroscience not only explains the increasingly common presence of symptoms such as loss of taste or smell, it also demonstrates the ability of the virus to rapidly lodge and replicate outside the respiratory system.

In addition, the remains of virus lodged in the walls of the blood vessels of the brain confirmed that the virus reaches the central nervous system from its entry through the nose.

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The researchers found virus fragments in brain regions that do not have a direct connection with the nose, an indication that the coronavirus not only accesses the nervous system through the nasopharynx.

The team also examined the immune response that triggers the brain and obtained evidence that some of the strokes related to Covid-19 could be related to the inflammatory response aimed at fighting the disease.

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