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Coronavirus infects the ear

JEONG, M. et al. Communications Medicine. 2021 Inner ear hair cells containing the protein (in pink) required for viral infectionJEONG, M. et al. Communications Medicine. 2021

As well as causing a reduced sense of taste and smell, the novel coronavirus can infect inner ear cells, leading to hearing loss and balance problems (Communications Medicine, October 29). A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, both in the USA, identified 10 patients with COVID-19 who developed mild to severe hearing loss after infection. Of these 10, nine suffered tinnitus in one or both ears and six experienced vertigo. To find out how COVID-19 might be causing these symptoms, the researchers reprogrammed stem cells to transform into both hair cells and Schwann cells, both found in the inner ear, and discovered that they contained the surface proteins needed for viral attachment. The experiment showed that SARS-CoV-2 was able to invade the cells.