How COVID-19 Affects The Brain

The brains of people who have had the disease show signs of leaky blood vessel damage.

The brains of people who have had the disease show signs of leaky blood vessel damage.

A new study finds no evidence of the novel coronavirus entering the brain or that it attacks the brain directly.

However, the brains of people who have had the disease show signs of leaky blood vessel damage.

This may be the result of the immune reaction the body mounts in response to the virus.

Despite the findings in this study, a recent study on mice has suggested that the COVID-19 virus may enter the brain, while another study has suggested how it may do so (Meinhardt et al., 2020).

Scientists are trying to explain why people with COVID-19 are reporting cognitive symptoms like brain fog and fatigue from what is primarily a respiratory disease.

Some think the virus may invade the brain’s respiratory centre, affecting breathing as well as the olfactory bulb, which controls the sense of smell.

Dr Avindra Nath, the study’s first author, said:

“We found that the brains of patients who contract infection from SARS-CoV-2 may be susceptible to microvascular blood vessel damage.

Our results suggest that this may be caused by the body’s inflammatory response to the virus.

We hope these results will help doctors understand the full spectrum of problems patients may suffer so that we can come up with better treatments.”

The results of this study are based on an examination of the brain tissue of 19 people who died after contracting COVID-19.

They found dark spots in the brain containing leaky and clotted blood vessels.

Dr Nath said:

“We were completely surprised.

Originally, we expected to see damage that is caused by a lack of oxygen.

Instead, we saw multifocal areas of damage that is usually associated with strokes and neuroinflammatory diseases.”

Lastly, researchers used several methods for detecting genetic material related to SARS-CoV-2, but discovered nothing.

Dr Nath said:

“So far, our results suggest that the damage we saw may not have been not caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly infecting the brain.

In the future, we plan to study how COVID-19 harms the brain’s blood vessels and whether that produces some of the short- and long-term symptoms we see in patients.”

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Lee et al., 2020).

COVID-19: Lasting Immunity After Mild Or Asymptomatic Infection

People with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 retain long-term immunity.

People with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 retain long-term immunity.

There is a growing body of evidence showing that people have lasting immunity after asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 infection.

A new study looked at antibody and T cell responses of a group healthcare workers with asymptomatic or mild covid-19 infection.

The results suggest that 89 percent of those healthcare workers had neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 during 16-18 week follow-up after infection.

They also possessed T cells with the ability of detecting different parts of the virus.

However, these two levels of defence were not always coupled as some were showing neutralizing antibodies but not T cell immunity and vice versa.

Dr Joseph Gibbons, the study’s co-author, explained:

“Our study of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers from London hospitals reveals that four months after infection, around 90 percent of individuals have antibodies that block the virus.

Even more encouragingly, in 66 percent of healthcare workers we see levels of these protective antibodies are high and that this robust antibody response is complemented by T cells which we see reacting to various parts of the virus.

This is good news.

It means that if you have been infected there is a good chance that you will have developed antibodies and T cells that may provide some protection if you encounter the virus again.”

Since the start of the pandemic researchers have been trying to find out how our body is protected against the coronavirus and how long this immunity will last.

The focus is mostly on B cells that produce antibodies and T cells responsible for making white blood cells to destroy infected cells.

This research reveals that some people didn’t produce T cells in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Notably, people with asymptomatic infection had less T cell immunity than those with classic COVID-19 symptoms.

However, both groups with symptomatic or asymptomatic infection had comparable neutralizing antibodies.

It seems even after mild infections people produce antibodies and T cells that recognize coronavirus epitopes.

Thus, vaccination provides the same effect in which our immune system would be able to detect the epitopes (a part of the antigen that binds to an antibody).

When a new variant appears the changes are not enough to stop the immune system from recognizing the epitopes, therefore the vaccine should work.

Dr. Corinna Pade, study co-author, said:

“Our study in asymptomatic and mild cases gives a positive insight into the durability of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 after four months of infection.

A remarkable number of around 90 percent of individuals have a joint force of strong antibodies that prevent the virus from entering, coupled with T cell responses to various parts of the virus to interfere with its survival.

This is an important find as mild or even no symptoms of COVID-19 are very common and representative of most infections in the community.

Such abundant immune responses also give hope for the long-lasting efficacy of vaccines.”

Pervious studies such as Wajnberg et al. and Ripperger et al., suggest that most recovered patients produce a strong antibody response lasting for a long time after infection.

The study was published in the journal Science Immunology (Reynolds et al., 2020).

How COVID Has Distorted Our Sense Of Time (M)

The effect of lockdowns on our perception of the passage of time.

The effect of lockdowns on our perception of the passage of time.

Lockdown and social and physical distancing measures have changed most people’s perception of time, research finds.

Around 40 percent of people felt time passed quicker during lockdown, while 40 percent felt it passed more slowly.

People who are busy, unstressed and happy with their social interactions found the time passed the quickest.

Dr Ruth Ogden, the study’s author, said:

“Eighty percent of people experienced distortion to the passage of time during the lockdown.

Lockdown passing more slowly than normal was associated with older age and reduced satisfaction with social interactions.”

The conclusions come from a survey of 604 people in the UK who answered a questionnaire about their perception of time during lockdown.

The results showed that young people tended to experience an acceleration in time during lockdown — it felt to them as though it was passing quicker.

This was particularly true of those who were busy, experiencing low levels of stress and who were satisfied with their levels of social interaction.

Introverts, who need less social interaction, this implies, tend to find the time flying during lockdown.

Extraverts — people who prefer more social interaction — are not so lucky.

In contrast to the young, older people tended to experience time slowing during lockdown.

This was especially true for those who were stressed, had little to occupy them and were socially dissatisfied.

Of course, our perceptions of time regularly shift, lockdown or not, depending on the activities, emotions or environment we are experiencing.

Dr Ogden writes:

“…positive affect and higher arousal are associated with the sensation of time passing more quickly in the moment.

[However,] negative affect (sadness) and low arousal are associated with time passing more slowly than normal.

People with depression report that time passes more slowly than normal during episodes of depression.

Boredom has also been consistently associated with a slowing of the passage of time in a range of laboratory and real-world studies.”

→ My favourite everyday example of time distortion is the well-travelled road effect.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Ogden et al., 2020).

There Are 6 Main COVID Strains: Will The Vaccines Still Work?

Can the vaccines still be effective on the virus mutations and its strains? Experts have the answer.

Can the vaccines still be effective on the virus mutations and its strains? Experts have the answer.

The novel coronavirus does mutate, but seems to change little, which is why the current vaccines should continue to work, new research finds.

The virus has a slow rate of mutation, even though currently six main strains at a minimum are known to exist.

The results from the largest study on genetic sequencing and the origin of SARS-CoV-2 confirm that the mutations can’t disrupt any efficient vaccine.

Scientists from Bologna University analysed 48,635 genomes of the virus in order to map the novel coronavirus mutations and its spread around the world.

They observed that the virus shows little difference: about seven mutations per sample.

This is good news since the flu (influenza) has twice as much genetic variability as the coronavirus.

Dr Federico Giorgi, the study’s co-author, said:

“The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimized to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change.

This means that the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains.”

The L-strain seem to be the original one detected in Wuhan on December 2019.

This type, along with the S, V, and G strains, are the most common, however the L and V strains are disappearing.

The G type is the most widespread in the world, especially in Europe and Italy and in February 2020 it mutated to GH and GR strains.

Dr Giorgi said:

“Strain G and its related strains GR and GH are by far the most widespread, representing 74% of all gene sequences we analysed.

They present four mutations, two of which are able to change the sequence of the RNA polymerase and Spike proteins of the virus.

This characteristic probably facilitates the spread of the virus.”

The coronavirus map shows that the GH strain is more frequent in Germany, France and North America, whereas the GR strain appears more often in South America.

The G, GH and GR strains are increasing globally and spreading in China and other parts of Asia.

Strain S has been detected in some parts of Spain and the US.

The research team has also noted some rare mutations but are not concerned.

Dr Giorgi said:

“Rare genomic mutations are less than 1% of all sequenced genomes.

However, it is fundamental that we study and analyse them so that we can identify their function and monitor their spread.

All countries should contribute to the cause by giving access to data about the virus genome sequences.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology (Mercatelli & Giorgi, 2020).

The Common Side-Effects Of The Pfizer Vaccine

People can experience symptoms like COVID-19 after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

People can experience symptoms like COVID-19 after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

The adverse effects of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine shouldn’t be disregarded despite the vaccine being generally well-tolerated.

People could experience similar symptoms to COVID-19 such as:

  • feeling nauseous,
  • dizzy,
  • chilled,
  • having a headache,
  • soreness and extreme muscle pain at the injection site,
  • and fever of 105°F (40.5 °C).

Swelling at the injection site after the first jab seems to be common as it was also reported in the Pfizer-BioNTech phase 1 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

According to data from Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine trial, after the second dose of BNT162b2 (the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech):

  • 75 percent of participants aged between 18 and 55 had fatigue,
  • 67 percent headache,
  • 33 percent chills,
  • 25 percent muscle pain,
  • and 17 percent fever.

Side-effects are sign of normal response

Dr Kristen Choi, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at UCLA, who participated in Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine trial published her experience.

After the first shot, her arm was sore but she didn’t experience anything unusual.

However, her body reacted strongly after the second dose:

“My arm quickly became painful at the injection site, much more than the first time.

By the end of the day, I felt light-headed, chilled, nauseous, and had a splitting headache.

I went to bed early and fell asleep immediately.

Around midnight, I woke up feeling worse—feverish and chilled, nauseated, dizzy, and hardly able to lift my arm from muscle pain at the injection site.

At 5:30 am, I felt hot.


I took my temperature and looked at the reading: 104.9 °F (40.5 °C).

This was the highest fever I can ever remember having, and it scared me.”

The next day she called the research office and was told that many people have reactions after receiving the second shot.

She was advised to monitor her symptoms and give them a call should anything change.

By the next day her symptoms were gone, except for the soreness and swelling at the injection site.

She explains that the side-effects are normal signs showing the effective immune response to the vaccine.

She added:

“Despite the extensive information I had on the research process and vaccine, on a personal level I did not get the message that I should anticipate a reactogenic response.

I was scared when I saw that I had a fever, and my gut reaction after months of scrutinizing myself for all the possible COVID-19 symptoms was: Do I have COVID-19?”

She concludes that practitioners should discuss the possible side-effects with patients and let them know that the reaction to the vaccine could look like the coronavirus symptoms.

This information will help people to overcome fear of vaccination.

The report was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine (Kristen Choi, 2020).

The Sleeping Aid That May Treat COVID-19

A sleeping aid hormone sold over-the-counter could be a useful treatment for coronavirus.

A sleeping aid hormone sold over-the-counter could be a useful treatment for coronavirus.

Melatonin has been identified as a potential drug for the treatment of coronavirus disease.

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the brain to control our sleep-wake cycle.

It is readily available and sold as a sleep-aid medicine without a prescription.

Due to increasing levels of COVID-19, scientists are looking for a new use for drugs that are already approved.

In an attempt to identify a low cost and effective treatment for the novel coronavirus, Lerner Research Institute researchers identified melatonin as a promising therapy for COVID-19.

Moreover, when researchers analysed patients’ data from a Cleveland Clinic, they found that those on melatonin had a 28 percent lower risk of testing positive for Covid-19.

The risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus among African Americans was reduced by 52 percent.

Dr Feixiong Cheng, the study’s lead author, said:

“It is very important to note these findings do not suggest people should start to take melatonin without consulting their physician.

Large-scale observational studies and randomized controlled trials are critical to validate the clinical benefit of melatonin for patients with COVID-19, but we are excited about the associations put forth in this study and the opportunity to further explore them.”

The method was based on the identification of the causes and symptoms of COVID-19 and other illnesses.

For instance, they noticed that proteins related to respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and sepsis were hugely connected with SARS-CoV-2 proteins.

RDS is a common breathing disorder and sepsis is an illness caused by the body’s severe response to an infection.

These two conditions are major causes of death in COVID-19 patients.

Dr Cheng said:

“This signals to us that that a drug already approved to treat these respiratory conditions may have some utility in also treating COVID-19 by acting on those shared biological targets.”

The team found that pulmonary conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, neurological problems such as Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression, and autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease all showed a link to SARS-CoV-2 genes/proteins.

This led the team to single out 34 existing drugs as COVID-19 treatment candidates and melatonin was the most successful one.

Dr Cheng explained:

“Recent studies suggest that COVID-19 is a systematic disease impacting multiple cell types, tissues and organs, so knowledge of the complex interplays between the virus and other diseases is key to understanding COVID-19-related complications and identifying repurposable drugs.

Our study provides a powerful, integrative network medicine strategy to predict disease manifestations associated with COVID-19 and facilitate the search for an effective treatment.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS Biology (Zhou et al., 2020).

COVID-19: Antibodies Can Neutralise Virus Months After Infection

The percentage of people who show strong antibody responses for many months after infection with the COVID-19 virus.

The percentage of people who show strong antibody responses for many months after infection with the COVID-19 virus.

Most individuals infected with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 have the ability to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is responsible.

Contrary to the media panic suggesting that antibodies against the coronavirus fade swiftly, a new Mount Sinai study proves otherwise.

In fact, more than 90 percent of recovered patients produce a strong antibody response lasting for a long time after infection.

Professor Florian Krammer, the study’s senior author, said:

“While some reports have come out saying antibodies to this virus go away quickly, we have found just the opposite—that more than 90 percent of people who were mildly or moderately ill produce an antibody response strong enough to neutralize the virus, and the response is maintained for many months.

Uncovering the robustness of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2, including its longevity and neutralizing effects, is critically important to enabling us to effectively monitor seroprevalence in communities and to determining the duration and levels of antibody that protect us from reinfection.

This is essential for effective vaccine development.”

The findings are based on data from more than 30,000 COVID-19 recovered patients who were tracked from March to October 2020.

The research used a very sensitive and specific test which made it unlikely to generate either a false positive or a false negative.

This specific antibody test shows the amount (titer) of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 produced by a person.

Professor Carlos Cordon-Cardo, study co-author, said:

“Our microbiology colleagues generated great science and tools that were brought from the research lab into the clinical laboratory, where we were able to implement robust and compliant diagnostic tests at an unprecedented pace.

The tireless efforts of so many have enabled us to uncover knowledge that can help inform COVID-19 policy and aid in vaccine development.”

SARS-CoV-2 has different proteins able to reproduce and infect our cells and the spike protein (S-protein) is the main part that the virus uses to attach itself to human cells.

Therefore, key for neutralizing antibodies as well as vaccines is to target the S-protein.

The other important issue is how long the antibody response to the S-protein lasts.

To find out the antibody longevity, the researchers recruited a number of recovered patients to donate their blood for convalescent plasma therapy.

The antibody levels of the plasma donors were measured at 3 months and 5 months afterwards.

They noticed that after 5 months a reasonable level of antibodies was achieved by most people.

A study by Ripperger et al., has also shown similar results.

Dr Ania Wajnberg, the study’s first author, explained:

“The serum antibody titer we measured in individuals initially were likely produced by plasmablasts, cells that act as first responders to an invading virus and come together to produce initial bouts of antibodies whose strength soon wanes.

The sustained antibody levels that we subsequently observed are likely produced by long-lived plasma cells in the bone marrow.

This is similar to what we see in other viruses and likely means they are here to stay. We will continue to follow this group over time to see if these levels remain stable as we suspect and hope they will.”

The study was published in the journal Science (Wajnberg et al., 2020).

COVID-19: How Long Immunity Lasts After Infection

Those who say SARS-CoV-2 antibodies only provide short-term immunity are missing the complete picture.

Those who say SARS-CoV-2 antibodies only provide short-term immunity are missing the complete picture.

The novel coronavirus has been the centre of attention and a central question is whether, and for how long after infection people will be immune to the disease.

To answer this question scientists have examined the antibody production of about 6,000 individuals.

Their results show that immunity lasts for many months after recovery from COVID-19 infection.

Dr Deepta Bhattacharya, the study’s senior author, said:

“Many concerns have been expressed about immunity against COVID-19 not lasting.

We clearly see high-quality antibodies still being produced five to seven months after SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

After cells are infected by the virus our immune system uses short-lived plasma cells developed from B cells, a type of white blood cell.

These cells produce antibodies to kill the virus and the antibodies are the ones that are detected in blood tests for two weeks after infection.

Thereafter the next phase of the immune response starts which involves the production of long-lived plasma cells.

These cells generate a type of antibody that protects us from reinfection for a longer period.

The research team were able to detect high enough amounts of these antibodies in recovered patients seven months later.

Dr Michael Dakestudy, study co-author, said

“Whether antibodies provide lasting protection against SARS-CoV-2 has been one of the most difficult questions to answer.

This research not only has given us the ability to accurately test for antibodies against COVID-19, but also has armed us with the knowledge that lasting immunity is a reality.”

Previously, researchers didn’t have enough data so they thought after infection antibody levels were rapidly reduced and so immunity must be short-term.

Dr Bhattacharya points out that these studies concentrated on short-lived plasma cells and didn’t look at the high-affinity antibodies produced by long-lived plasma cells.

She said:

“The latest time-points we tracked in infected individuals were past seven months, so that is the longest period of time we can confirm immunity lasts.

That said, we know that people who were infected with the first SARS coronavirus, which is the most similar virus to SARS-CoV-2, are still seeing immunity 17 years after infection.

If SARS-CoV-2 is anything like the first one, we expect antibodies to last at least two years, and it would be unlikely for anything much shorter.”

The team developed one of the most precise COVID-19 antibody tests that is able to detect high-affinity antibodies even after a long period of infection.

The test uses two specific regions (S1 and S2) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Professor Janko Nikolich-Zugich, the study’s senior author, said:

“When we began, the first test we developed was 99% accurate for measuring antibodies in one part of the virus.

We decided to confirm, and hopefully improve, that accuracy level by looking at another part of the virus that makes antibodies independent of the first location.

We then validated that test, knowing some people will make antibodies more consistently for one part of the virus than the other. We put the two tests together, and only people who show antibody production for both parts of the test are determined to be positive.”

The study was published in the journal Immunity (Ripperger et al., 2020).