Research Brief: Latest COVID-19 Research News

COVID-19 research

Brain Damage in COVID Patients

It is now clear that in addition to respiratory symptoms, COVID-19 also affects other parts of the body, with neurological symptoms also reported – such as the most well-known, loss of smell. A study published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology has reported on the results of an imaging study that investigated neurological effects of COVID-19. The study included a total of six patients, and used magnetic resonance to view the brains of these patients.

The researchers found similar indicators of oxygen deprivation in the COVID-19 patients as is seen in patients who have had hypoxia (low oxygen), without COVID-19. The researchers also noted some changes to the white matter of the brain in COVID-19 patients. According to the researchers, “A key question is whether it is just the decrease in oxygen to the brain that is causing these white matter changes or whether the virus is itself attacking the white matter.”

In addition to this study, the researchers hope to further investigate long-term neurological effects of COVID-19, symptoms such as headache, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and brain fog, which is sometimes reported by patients who have recovered from COVID-19 infection.

Green Space for Mental Health During COVID-19

Given the significant impact of stay at home orders and social distancing restrictions, a research study has investigated the effects of exposure to green space and mental health. The researchers assessed not only time spent outdoors in greenspace, but also visibility of greenspace – such as a view of green space from windows at home. The researchers reported that the time spent in greenspace outdoors as well as visibility of green space was associated with higher self-esteem, increased life satisfaction, and increased levels of happiness. The researchers also reported reductions in depression, anxiety, and loneliness with increased green space use and visibility. According to researcher Dr. Masashi Soga from the University of Tokyo, “our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans.”

Oxford Vaccine

The results of the Randomized Controlled Phase 2/3 clinical trial for the University of Oxford vaccine – ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – have been published in the Lancet. The trial included adults over the age of 18, with age groups spanning 18-70+ years. The participants were either given the vaccine or a control vaccine (placebo).

The reactions to the vaccine reported by the trial included pain at the injection site, muscle aches, headache, and fever, which were more common in patients who received the vaccine. The trial reported 13 serious adverse events, however, these were not thought to be related to the vaccine. The immune response triggered by the vaccine was similar across all age groups, which included IgG responses and neutralizing antibody response.

Ongoing Phase 3 trials will now determine whether the vaccine is effective at protecting against SARS-CoV-2 infection. According to co-author Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, University of Oxford, UK, “The robust antibody and T-cell responses seen in older people in our study are encouraging. The populations at greatest risk of serious COVID-19 disease include people with existing health conditions and older adults. We hope that this means our vaccine will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society, but further research will be needed before we can be sure.”


Brain MR Spectroscopic Findings in 3 Consecutive Patients with COVID-19: Preliminary ObservationsO. Rapalino, A. Weerasekera, S.J. Moum, K. Eikermann-Haerter, B.L. Edlow, D. Fischer, A. Torrado-Carvajal, M.L. Loggia, S.S. Mukerji, P.W. Schaefer, R.G. Gonzalez, M.H. Lev, E.-M. Ratai American Journal of Neuroradiology Oct 2020, DOI: 10.3174/ajnr.A6877

News release:

Soga, M., Evans, M. J., Tsuchiya, K., and Fukano, Y.. 2020. A room with a green view: the importance of nearby nature for mental health during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Ecological Applications 00( 00):e02248. 10.1002/eap.2248

News release:

Ramasamy MN, Minassian AM, Ewer KJ, Flaxman AL, Folegatti PM, Owens DR, Voysey M, Aley PK, Angus B, Babbage G, Belij-Rammerstorfer S, Berry L, Bibi S, Bittaye M, Cathie K, Chappell H, Charlton S, Cicconi P, Clutterbuck EA, Colin-Jones R, Dold C, Emary KRW, Fedosyuk S, Fuskova M, Gbesemete D, Green C, Hallis B, Hou MM, Jenkin D, Joe CCD, Kelly EJ, Kerridge S, Lawrie AM, Lelliott A, Lwin MN, Makinson R, Marchevsky NG, Mujadidi Y, Munro APS, Pacurar M, Plested E, Rand J, Rawlinson T, Rhead S, Robinson H, Ritchie AJ, Ross-Russell AL, Saich S, Singh N, Smith CC, Snape MD, Song R, Tarrant R, Themistocleous Y, Thomas KM, Villafana TL, Warren SC, Watson MEE, Douglas AD, Hill AVS, Lambe T, Gilbert SC, Faust SN, Pollard AJ; Oxford COVID Vaccine Trial Group. Safety and immunogenicity of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine administered in a prime-boost regimen in young and old adults (COV002): a single-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 2/3 trial. Lancet. 2020 Nov 18:S0140-6736(20)32466-1. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32466-1. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33220855; PMCID: PMC7674972.

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Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay 

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