Miro Health and Johns Hopkins have teamed up to investigate how COVID-19 affects the brain. Doctors on the frontlines of COVID-19 have been reporting unusual symptoms ranging from loss of smell and nerve pain to sudden personality changes, mood disturbance, confusion, trouble thinking, seizures, and strokes. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in early April found 36 percent of Chinese patients had neurological symptoms. In Italy, a special NeuroCovid unit was opened specifically to treat COVID-19 patients with nervous system involvement. Now doctors in the U.S. may expand emergency room visit criteria for COVID-19 beyond fever, coughing, and shortness of breath to include neurological symptoms. Experts believe that more than one-third of COVID-19 infections involve the brain, and they are beginning to recognize the signs. Today, Miro Health is launching a nationwide neurological research program. Healthy individuals, individuals who are currently infected with COVID-19, those who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, and those who have not been tested but suspect that they may have been infected with COVID-19 are all encouraged to join the effort. Miro is also collecting patient data from post-neurocritical patients at Johns Hopkins. Research scientists expect that together, the two data sets will provide a comprehensive view of the effects that COVID-19 may exert on the central nervous system. To learn more about the program and how to get tested, visit: Miro Health. COVID-19 enters the body through ACE-2 receptors that line our airways and lungs. From there, it employs one of three clever tricks to reach our central nervous system. One, it may climb into the brain through tiny nerve hairs that line our nasal passages and support our sense of smell. Two, if it makes its way to the lungs, the virus may climb the vagus nerve which travels from the lungs to the brain. And finally, if it finds its way inside a white blood cell, it can travel undetected through the blood stream and into the brain. This is known as the “Trojan horse” method. Even without gaining access to the brain, the virus can cause neurological damage by tricking the body into a fierce immune response called a cytokine or chemokine storm that can turn the brain’s tissues against itself. Viruses are rare in their ability to enter our central nervous system. Once inside, they either replicate or lay dormant in ‘viral reservoirs’. HIV, for example, takes an immediate toll on cognition and can usher in early dementia. Shingles, or chicken pox resurrected, causes significant peripheral nerve pain. Polio strips muscle growth and motor abilities. Zika thwarts brain development and thinking. COVID-19’s effects are just coming to light and its long-term consequences will take years to discover. This is why neurological testing and monitoring is so important. Fortunately, the human body has evolved formidable systems to protect and nurture our brains: the skull, the blood brain barrier, and our immune system. These defenses are so effective that they have dismantled entire drug development programs for neurological and psychiatric diseases. Despite the early promise of many drugs, more than 95% are unable to cross the blood brain barrier, rendering them useless. In contrast, viruses have evolved sophisticated methods to slip past the brain’s defenses. Once inside, they take refuge behind our nervous system’s formidable shield, and use it to evade our lethal immune system. This is why monitoring neurological health post-viral exposure is so important. To support public neurological health and advance our understanding of the virus’s effects on the central nervous system, Miro Health is turning its mobile neurological testing technologies toward COVID-19 with the largest neurological public health program to date. To learn more about the program and how to get tested, visit: Miro Health.
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