New Study Reveals COVID-19 Virus Can Linger in Brain for Months

A new study from researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has revealed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, can spread throughout the body, including the brain, and linger for almost eight months. The findings were published in the journal Nature and were based on tissue samples from autopsies of patients who died from COVID-19.

The researchers conducted extensive sampling of the nervous system, including the brain, in 11 of the patients. All of the patients had died from COVID-19 and none were vaccinated. They found that the virus primarily infected and damaged airway and lung tissue. However, they also found viral RNA in 84 distinct body locations and bodily fluids, and in one case they isolated viral RNA 230 days after a patient’s symptoms began.

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The study also found that SARS-CoV-2 RNA and protein was present in the hypothalamus and cerebellum of one patient, and in the spinal cord and basal ganglia of two other patients. However, the study found little damage to brain tissue, despite the virus being present in the brain. The researchers also isolated viable SARS-CoV-2 virus from diverse tissues in and outside the respiratory tract, including the brain, heart, lymph nodes, gastrointestinal tract, adrenal gland, and eye.

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The study’s senior author, Daniel Chertow from NIH, notes that prior to this study, “the thinking in the field was that SARS-CoV-2 was predominantly a respiratory virus.” The new findings suggest that the virus can linger in the body for an extended period of time, and highlights the importance of continued research on COVID-19 and its long-term effects.

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