COVID-19 Could Lead to Brain Damage, Scientists Warn

Researchers have found 43 cases where coronavirus patients suffered strokes, nerve damage and other brain injuries.
brain mri scan
Photo: ©bunyos /

Today, researchers at University College London (UCL) warned that COVID-19 can lead to various types of brain damage.

A study conducted at UCL found 43 cases where people who had contracted coronavirus had suffered strokes, nerve damage, temporary brain dysfunction or other serious effects on the brain. The study chimes with reports from April of people in their thirties and forties suffering strokes more commonly associated with people in their mid-seventies.


UCL's Michael Zandi, who co-led the study, said, "Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic – perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s, after the 1918 influenza pandemic – remains to be seen."

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Ross Paterson from London's Research Centre for Machine Learning, who also co-led the study, added, "Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause. Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."

The news comes as the World Health Organisation admits there is "evidence emerging" that coronavirus could be transmitted through air. After months of maintaining that the virus is mostly spread by droplets – released in sneezes and coughs – falling to the floor, at a briefing on Tuesday the WHO's COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said the potential of airborne transmission "cannot be ruled out". However, she did add that more evidence needs to be "gathered and interpreted".

This acknowledgment follows an open letter written by 239 scientists from 32 countries, urging the WHO to update its information on how the virus can be transmitted.