Neurological symptoms can come and go

Neurological Complications in COVID-19

An infection with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can result in severe neurological complications. This is shown by case series from China published in medRxiv and the British Medical Journal.

Neurological symptoms are not uncommon in viral respiratory infections. Influenza headaches are often the first sign of illness. Neurological accompanying symptoms are also known for infections with harmless coronaviruses (e.g. NL63) or SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV. In SARS and MERS, entry of the viruses into the brain has been proven. It takes place via the olfactory nerves. Smell disorders also occur after an illness with SARS-CoV-2, whether the viruses also infect the brain is not yet known.

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Central Nervous System Infection?

Neurological symptoms can also be an indirect consequence of infection. The neurologist Huijuan Jin from Hauzhong University in Wuhan assumes, after evaluating the electronic medical records of 214 corona patients, that the infection affects the central nervous system. Neurological symptoms were noted in 78 patients (36.4%). The most common were:

  • Dizziness (36 patients, 16.8%)
  • Headache (28 patients, 13.1%)
  • Taste disorders (12 patients, 5.6%)
  • Olfactory disorders (11 patients, 5.1%)

The neurological symptoms were more common in those with severe symptoms than in those with mild disease. A stroke occurred in 6 patients (2.8%).

Serious complications were also seen more frequently in patients who did not survive COVID-19 illness. This is shown by an evaluation by Qin Ning's team from Huazhong University. The doctors had diagnosed hypoxic encephalopathy before death in 23 of 133 deceased. In a comparison group of 161 patients who recovered from the infection, this serious complication occurred in only one case.

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Editorial editing:
Silke Brenner

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