Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1321:21-31. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-59261-5_2.
The recently emerged coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causal agent of COVID-19, is the newest threat to human health. It has already infected more than 54.5 million people worldwide, currently leading to more than 1.3 million deaths. Although it causes a mild flu-like disease in most patients, lethality may increase to more than 20% in elderly subjects, especially in those with comorbidities, like hypertension, diabetes, or lung and cardiac disease, and the mechanisms are still elusive. Common symptoms at the onset of illness are fever, cough, myalgia or fatigue, headache, and diarrhea or constipation. Interestingly, respiratory viruses have also placed themselves as relevant agents for central nervous system (CNS) pathologies. Conversely, SARS-CoV-2 has already been detected in the cerebrospinal fluid. Here, we discuss several clinical features related to CNS infection during COVID-19. Patients may progress from headaches and migraines to encephalitis, stroke, and seizures with leptomeningitis. However, the pathway used by the virus to reach the brain is still unknown. It may infect the olfactory bulb by retrograde neuronal transportation from olfactory epithelium, or it could be transported by the blood. Either way, neurological complications of COVID-19 add greatly to the complex pathophysiology of the disease. Neurological signs and symptoms must alert physicians not only to worst outcomes but also to future possible degenerative diseases.