SARS-CoV-2 infection of the brain might induce neurotoxins that accelerate fatal brain aging

April 22nd, 2020

BST* Executive summary prepared by Marina T. Botana1 and Raymond C. Valentine2

1 São Paulo, SP, 04116-240, Brazil; ; +55-11-97283-7799

2 Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA; ; +1-802-275-2980

COVID-19 virus likely infects the brain causing irreversible damage. We suggest that it might be a consequence of energy stress, which is well known to be the trigger of death cascades. This view opens new treatment strategies for compromised patients. Once again, the devil is in the details.

Figure 1: Several human lipid viruses, including the novel coronavirus fatally infecting the brain a) Brain tomography of a newborn baby with microcephaly and congenital Zika syndrome adapted from Hazin et al., 20161; b) Tomography of different brain sections showing diffusive edema with multiple high density lesions (in white arrows) adapted from Xu et al., 20052; c) Tissue distribution of ACE2 receptor in humans, including the brain, which are possible targets of COVID-19 (Baig et al., 20203).

1) Past and new evidences of infection by lipid viruses show great incidence of brain infection and damage1,2,3, 4, 5 (Figure 1). However, there is still a lack of information about HOW brain infection takes place after contamination.

2) Lipid viruses hijack the lipidome of the host 6,7,8,9 for the purpose of virus gain. The resulting cocktail of fatty acids and detergent like derivatives (i.e. lysolipids) (Figure 2) are highly toxic to host cells organs and tissues.

Figure 2: a) Higher concentrations of lysolipids and free fatty acids in serum from COVID-19 patients (adapted from Yan et al., 20199); b) Schematic representation of the changes in molecular dimensions imposed in pure DOPE (dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine), a structural phospholipid, when doped with lysolipids10; c) Changes in membrane curvature promoted by lysolipids and free fatty acids (adapted from Arouri et al., 201311).

3) We propose that the accumulation of these groups of membrane uncoupling byproducts in the blood serum of infected patients can target mitochondria and uncouple energy synthesis12,13.

4) Protecting both the brain and the lungs of COVID-19 patients might save their lives in both the short and long term by preventing brain damage.

Full report explaining how lipid viruses infect the brain and induce death cascades will follow.


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11- AROURI, Ahmad; MOURITSEN, Ole G. Membrane-perturbing effect of fatty acids and lysolipids. Progress in lipid research, v. 52, n. 1, p. 130-140, 2013.

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13 - DEMINE, Stéphane; RENARD, Patricia; ARNOULD, Thierry. Mitochondrial uncoupling: a key controller of biological processes in physiology and diseases. Cells, v. 8, n. 8, p. 795, 2019.