Doctors find coronavirus in man's brain, say usual tests may not detect silent killer disease

Experts make a case for changing how doctors diagnose the disease


                            Doctors find coronavirus in man's brain, say usual tests may not detect silent killer disease
(Getty Images)

A 24-year old man tested positive for COVID-19 after doctors found traces of the virus in the brain fluid.  At that time, the usual coronavirus tests failed to detect the virus, according to doctors who treated the man.

They add the patient's case suggests that doctors should not rule out COVID-19 even if a patient's usual test results come back negative. In their case-study, the medical experts make a case for changing how doctors diagnose the disease, highlighting the need to look beyond usual tests.

To test a patient suspected of the disease, health workers insert a swab deep into the throat. Because the virus propagates in the throat, experts expect to find traces of the coronavirus or the RNA.

According to the authors, diagnosis plays a vital role in bringing an end to the pandemic. "The diagnosis of the disease must be prompt and not overlook any findings. Finding the suspected patient is the first step of a preventive measure against the pandemic," they wrote in their study, adding that doctors must keep a watch for signs of brain swelling.

The curious case of the 24-year-old man

On day nine of his sickness, the man fell unconscious on the floor, lying on a pool of his vomit.  Finding him in such a state, his family rushed him to the hospital.  Once in the hospital, doctors realized his brain was swollen, indicating he had encephalitis. He also had seizures and stiffness in his neck.

In the case study, the doctors describe how the man's illness progressed over the days. On day one, the man complained of headaches, fatigue, and fever. He met with a doctor on day two of his illness. The doctor prescribed him medicines to lower his temperature.  On day five, his conditions worsened, and yet he had no clue of what was to come.

The doctors found traces of the virus in the brain fluid (Getty Images)

When he was brought to the hospital on day nine, the doctors collected samples from the brain fluid and throat, finding evidence for the disease in the former and not the latter.

But another expert pointed out that a delay in testing might explain why conventional testing failed. "This was 9 days after onset, so this effect is 'late' in the progress of the disease," a scientist named Dr Kevin Purcell tweeted. Late throat tests typically fail, he explained.

Other cases suggest the new coronavirus attacks the brain

The 24-year-man is not the first COVID-19  patient to have had a brain swelling. Recently, doctors from Detroit said one of their patients developed a rare brain disease

Mounting evidence suggests the new coronavirus seems to be doing more than just damaging the lungs and heart. Doctors around the world have been documenting brain damage in a small population of COVID-19 patients.

Other patients have complained of headaches, seizures, loss of memory, confusion, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and impaired consciousness.

Besides, the SARS coronavirus, a cousin of the new coronavirus also affects the brain. Scientists found that the SARS virus invades the brain and infects it, even finding it in autopsies of patients.

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