The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can sometimes hijack brain cells, using the cells' internal machinery to copy itself, according to a new study.
The research, posted Sept. 8 to the preprint database bioRxiv
, has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but it provides evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect brain cells called neurons.
Although the coronavirus has been linked to various forms of brain damage, from deadly inflammation
to brain diseases known as encephalopathies
, all of which can cause confusion, brain fog and delirium, there was little evidence of the virus itself invading brain tissue until now.
"We are actively looking at more patient tissues to be able to find how frequently such brain
infections occur ... and what symptoms correlate with infection of which areas of the brain," senior author Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told Live Science in an email.
In addition, scientists must still figure out how the virus enters the brain in the first place, and whether it can be kept out of the brain, the authors noted in their report.