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Another potential route to brain infection

Image shows virus specimens (green) in choroid plexus cells

GOMES, I. et al. The Lancet Regional Health – Americas. Aug. 28, 2021

The nose may not be the only way the novel coronavirus reaches the brain. Cases of anosmia (loss of smell) associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection led to an assumption among doctors and scientists that the virus affects the central nervous system by invading the tissue at the back of the nose (the olfactory epithelium) and the nerves that carry information about smells to the brain. But evidence is mounting that SARS-CoV-2 can also inefect brain structures via the circulatory system. One such indication was discovered by researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDor), and Hospital Municipal Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, all working together under the leadership of neuroscientist Stevens Rehen. Their analysis of autopsy material from a 14-month-old baby who died of COVID-19 revealed a large amount of the virus in a part of the brain with many blood vessels: the choroid plexus, responsible for producing cerebrospinal fluid, which nourishes and protects the brain (The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, August 28). The research group suspects that the virus damages a special layer of cells—called the blood-brain barrier—that lines the blood vessels of the choroid plexus, thus allowing it to infect the central nervous system.