NYMC Faculty Publications


COVID-19-Induced Neurovascular Injury: a Case Series with Emphasis on Pathophysiological Mechanisms

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Second Department



Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with a high inflammatory burden that can induce severe respiratory disease among other complications; vascular and neurological damage has emerged as a key threat to COVID-19 patients. Risk of severe infection and mortality increases with age, male sex, and comorbidities including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and chronic pulmonary disease. We review clinical and neuroradiological findings in five patients with COVID-19 who suffered severe neurological disease and illustrate the pathological findings in a 7-year-old boy with COVID-19-induced encephalopathy whose brain tissue sample showed angiocentric mixed mononuclear inflammatory infiltrate. We summarize the structural and functional properties of the virus including the molecular processes that govern the binding to its membrane receptors and cellular entry. In addition, we review clinical and experimental evidence in patients and animal models that suggests coronaviruses enter into the central nervous system (CNS), either via the olfactory bulb or through hematogenous spread. We discuss suspected pathophysiological mechanisms including direct cellular infection and associated recruitment of immune cells and neurovirulence, at least in part, mediated by cytokine secretion. Moreover, contributing to the vascular and neurological injury, coagulopathic disorders play an important pathogenic role. We survey the molecular events that contribute to the thrombotic microangiopathy. We describe the neurological complications associated with COVID-19 with a focus on the potential mechanisms of neurovascular injury. Our thesis is that following infection, three main pathophysiological processes-inflammation, thrombosis, and vascular injury-are responsible for the neurological damage and diverse pathology seen in COVID-19 patients.

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