Certain patients who receive hospital care for coronavirus infection (COVID-19) exhibit clinical and neurochemical signs of brain injury, a University of Gothenburg study shows. In even moderate COVID-19 cases, finding and measuring a blood-based biomarker for brain damage proved to be possible. Some people infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 get only mild, cold-like symptoms, while others become severely ill and require hospital treatment. Among the latter, it has become clear that the patients sometimes show obvious signs of the brain not functioning as it should.
Now that the research is being presented in the journal Neurology, it is evident that an increase in one of the biomarkers took place even with moderate COVID-19—that is, in patients admitted to hospital but not in need of ventilator support. This marker, known as GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein), is normally present in astrocytes, a star-shaped neuron-supportive cell type in the brain, but leaks out in the event of astrocytic injury or overactivation.