Coronavirus ‘harms the brain and nervous system of HALF of severely ill patients and a third of all cases’ — causing symptoms such as stumbling, slurred speech and seizures
- Neurologists studied 214 patients treated for coronavirus in Wuhan, China
- Of these people, 36.4 per cent were found to have brain and nerve symptoms
- Identifying these symptoms could help doctors identify higher-risk patients
Coronavirus harms the brain and nervous system of half of severely ill patients, a study on patients with COVID-19 in the Chinese city of Wuhan has found.
Such impacts — which appear in a third of patients overall — lead to symptoms including headaches, stumbling, slurred speech, nerve pain and seizures.
The study — the first to characterise the brain problems associated with coronavirus infection — suggest that these symptoms could indicate patients at a higher risk.
Scroll down for video
Coronavirus harms the brain and nervous system of HALF of severely ill patients, a study on patients with COVID-19 in the Chinese city of Wuhan has found (stock image)
In the study, neurologist Bo Hu of the Huazhong University of Science and Technology and colleagues analysed 214 patients with COVID-19 from Wuhan, China, the city where the outbreak emerged, between mid-January and mid-February.
The patients were all treated in one of three dedicated special care centres in the university’s Union Hospital.
The experts sorted neurological symptoms into one of three categories, the first of which was central nervous system manifestations — including dizziness, headache, impaired consciousness, acute cerebrovascular disease, ataxia and seizure.
The other categories were peripheral nervous system manifestations (taste impairment, smell impairment, vision impairment and nerve pain) and skeletal muscular injury manifestations.
‘Overall, 78 patients (36.4 per cent) had neurologic manifestations,’ the researchers wrote in their paper.
‘Compared with patients with non-severe infection, patients with severe infection were older, had more underlying disorders, especially hypertension, and showed fewer typical symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and cough,’ they added.
‘Patients with more severe infection had neurologic manifestations, such as acute cerebrovascular diseases (5 vs 1), impaired consciousness (13 vs 3) and skeletal muscle injury (17 vs 6).’
The study — the first to characterise the brain problems associated with coronavirus infection — suggest that neurological symptoms could indicate patients who are at a higher risk. Pictured, a computed tomography (CT) image of the brain of a patient with COVID-19
‘During the epidemic period of COVID-19, when seeing patients with neurologic manifestations, clinicians should suspect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection as a differential diagnosis,’ the researchers said.
This, they added, will avoid delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis and losing the chance to treat [the patients] and prevent further transmission.’
‘The observations of neurological complications in a subset of COVID-19 positive patients is worthy of note but should not distract from a focus on the main pathology of respiratory distress,’ commented virologist Ian Jones of the University of Reading.
‘Almost half of the patients described here had underlying health issues and there is no direct data given on the presence of virus at neurological sites.’
‘Viraemia, the presence of virus in the bloodstream, from where it can access neuronal tissue, was described for SARS but not in all patients and then only transiently. It happens, but is generally not what coronaviruses do.’
‘At the moment neurological complications might best be considered a consequence of COVID-19 disease severity rather than a distinct new concern.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS?
The virus, called COVID-19, is transmitted from person to person via droplets when an infected person breathes out, coughs or sneezes.
It can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as door handles or railings.
Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms including a sore throat, headache, fever, cough or trouble breathing.
Severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory illness, kidney failure and death.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.