Scientific Journal

Neurological Components in Coronavirus Induced Disease: A Review of the Literature Related to SARS, MERS, and COVID-19

Background

COVID-19 has been declared the pandemic of the 21st century, causing more than 45,000 deaths worldwide. The abrupt release of SARS-CoV-2 demonstrated the potential infection, morbidity, and lethality of zoonotic viruses and human-to-human transmission. Fever, cough, and fatigue are reported as the most common symptoms of the disease, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, and also signs of severe illness, such as shock, acute cardiac injury, and renal lesions, are described. Considering the previous works related to human coronavirus and other zoonotic infections, it has been demonstrated that the neuroinvasive propensity is a common characteristic of coronaviruses, especially in SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

Objective

In the present review, we analyzed the potential neurological components involved in coronavirus infections and detailed the neurological syndromes related to COVID-19. We also examined the mechanism of transmission and CNS pathology related to other viruses with similar structures such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

Methods 

A comprehensive search of different original articles and clinical, experimental, and review studies was conducted in MEDLINE/PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science. We selected 92 articles that have been published in journals or preprints according to the search words and the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Results

COVID-19 patients may experience neurological symptoms such as headache, impaired mental status, confusion, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, anosmia/hyposmia, and dysgeusia/hypogeusia as initial symptoms, with more severe manifestations such as seizures or coma later on. The neurological signs shown are clinical symptoms similar to those reported for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. Given that both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV have similar structures, these viruses may share comparable neurological symptoms and similar progression. Coronaviruses are linked to central nervous system dysfunction, and they are also reported as the probable cause of multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, and meningitis.