• By The Financial District


The case of a COVID-infected man who also developed meningitis and experienced memory loss in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture is but one among a succession of reports from around the world that the novel coronavirus has invaded the brain of some patients and “possibly caused serious cerebral damage,” Kai Ichino reported for the Asahi Shimbun.

In those cases, patients were suffering from memory impairment as well as meningitis, brain inflammation and disturbance of consciousness, raising concerns about the aftereffects of COVID-19. Experts are now moving to identify the mechanism of the virus’ infection leading to brain lesions. In Britain, a 59-year-old woman experienced a disturbance of consciousness after complaining of a fever and headache, and was diagnosed as being affected by the virus after hospitalization. The results of her MRI scan revealed that her brain suffered swelling and bleeding, defining the patient’s symptom as acute necrotizing encephalopathy. She was placed in intensive care but died on the 10th day of her hospitalization.

A German research team in July analyzed 92 academic theses and reports detailing nervous symptoms connected to the coronavirus infection. The findings showed 20 percent of virus carriers showed signs of headache, while 7 percent and 5 percent developed dizziness or consciousness disturbance, respectively. Meningitis, brain inflammation and Guillain-Barre syndrome associated with numbed limbs were also reported in some instances. A paper released by a British team in July shows similar results: Of 43 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients, delirium and other brain dysfunctions were detected in 10, brain inflammation in 12, and cerebral strokes in eight.

According to experts, viruses could affect cerebral cells in two ways: going through olfactory nerves and blood vessels to reach brain cells; or invading other organs to exert influence on the head. If the former is the case for COVID-19, viruses proliferate in the brain and lead to inflammation to cause damage to the central nerve in the brain. Under the latter theory, other organs are infected so an excessive immune response known as a cytokine storm emerges, resulting in inflammation in the entire body and damage to the brain’s central nervous system. Satoshi Kamei, director of the nerve infectious disease center of the Ageo Central General Hospital, who is knowledgeable about brain inflammation, said the “cytokine storm theory can explain cerebral conditions (deriving from COVID-19 infection) better than the direct infection argument.”