Pathophysiological Clues to How the Emergent SARS-CoV-2 Can Potentially Increase the Susceptibility to Neurodegeneration

Mahsa Dolatshahi, Mohammadmahdi Sabahi, Mohammad Hadi Aarabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Along with emergence of the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in late 2019, a myriad of neurologic symptoms, associated with structural brain changes, were reported. In this paper, we provide evidence to critically discuss the claim that the survived patients could possibly be at increased risk for neurodegenerative diseases via various mechanisms. This virus can directly invade the brain through olfactory bulb, retrograde axonal transport from peripheral nerve endings, or via hematogenous or lymphatic routes. Infection of the neurons along with peripheral leukocytes activation results in pro-inflammatory cytokine increment, rendering the brain to neurodegenerative changes. Also, occupation of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) with the virus may lead to a decline in ACE-2 activity, which acts as a neuroprotective factor. Furthermore, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and septicemia induce hypoxemia and hypoperfusion, which are locally exacerbated due to the hypercoagulable state and micro-thrombosis in brain vessels, leading to oxidative stress and neurodegeneration. Common risk factors for COVID-19 and neurodegenerative diseases, such as metabolic risk factors, genetic predispositions, and even gut microbiota dysbiosis, can contribute to higher occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases in COVID-19 survivors. However, it should be considered that severity of the infection, the extent of neurologic symptoms, and the persistence of viral infection consequences are major determinants of this association. Importantly, whether this pandemic will increase the overall incidence of neurodegeneration is not clear, as a high percentage of patients with severe form of COVID-19 might probably not survive enough to develop neurodegenerative diseases.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

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