People who have had COVID-19 might experience long-lasting effects to their brain, researchers have said.

Coronavirus, otherwise known as SARS-CoV-2 is a “neurotropic” virus which means it can enter nerve cells.

Other neurotropic conditions include rabies and mumps and in some extreme cases these sorts of viruses can cause brain swelling, paralysis and even death.

Using what they already know about these neurotropic viruses a team from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have been looking at how COVID-19 might potentially impact people in the long-term.

Lead researcher Dr Gabriel A. de Erausquin, who is a neurology professor at the university, said: “Since the flu pandemic of 1917 and 1918, many of the flu-like diseases have been associated with brain disorders.

“Those respiratory viruses included H1N1 and SARS-CoV. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is also known to impact the brain and nervous system.”

This could mean there is a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and mental health problems.

Through their research work they have discovered that SARS-CoV-2 binds to ACE2 receptors on cell membranes and a part of the brain which is responsible for memory.

Dr. de Erausquin said: “The trail of the virus, when it invades the brain, leads almost straight to the hippocampus. That is believed to be one of the sources of the cognitive impairment observed in COVID-19 patients.

“We suspect it may also be part of the reason why there will be an accelerated cognitive decline over time in susceptible individuals.”

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