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COVID-19 induces neuroinflammation and loss of hippocampal neurogenesis

SNT Gatchaman

Senior Member
New Zealand
Authors: Klein et al.
Published: 29th Oct 2021 (Pre-print)
DOI: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-1031824/v1
Full Text: Pre-print

Infection with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is associated with onset of neurological and psychiatric symptoms during and after the acute phase of illness. Acute SARS-CoV-2 disease (COVID-19) presents with decits of memory, attention, movement coordination, and mood. The mechanisms of these central nervous system symptoms remain largely unknown.

In an established hamster model of intranasal infection with SARS-CoV-25, and patients deceased from COVID-19, we report a lack of viral neuroinvasion despite aberrant BBB permeability, microglial activation, and brain expression of interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-6, especially within the hippocampus and the inferior olivary nucleus of the medulla, when compared with non-COVID control hamsters and humans who died from other infections, cardiovascular disease, uremia or trauma. In the hippocampus dentate gyrus of both COVID-19 hamsters and humans, fewer cells expressed doublecortin, a marker of neuroblasts and immature neurons.

Despite absence of viral neurotropism, we find SARS-CoV-2-induced inflammation, and hypoxia in humans, affect brain regions essential for fine motor function, learning, memory, and emotional responses, and result in loss of adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Neuroinflammation could affect cognition and behaviour via disruption of brain vasculature integrity, neurotransmission, and neurogenesis, acute effects that may persist in COVID-19 survivors with long-COVID symptoms.