COVID virus can infect inner ear and cause hearing loss, study finds

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(Gray News) – A recent study found that the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect cells in the inner ear, including hair cells, which are essential for both hearing and balance.

In a study of 10 patients with COVID-19 who reported various ear-related symptoms, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Eye and Ear said they found a pattern of infection in tissue samples. human inner ear compatible with inner ear problems.

The study indicated that several COVID patients developed problems with their ears – including hearing loss, tinnitus. dizziness and balance problems – suggesting that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be able to infect the inner ear.

Before the onset of the COVID pandemic, Lee Gehrke, a professor at MIT’s Institute of Medical Engineering and Science, and Konstantina Stankovic, a former associate professor at Harvard Medical School, began working together on a project to develop cellular models to study inner ear infections. , said MIT.

The rollout of the COVID-19 Test-To-Treat program is underway and if you test positive for the virus, you can get free medication. (Credit: CNN Newsource)

Viruses such as cytomegalovirus, mumps and hepatitis can all cause deafness, the professors said.

In early 2020, after the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged, Stankovic said she started seeing patients with hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo who tested positive for COVID.

Gehrke and Stankovic decided to use the model system they were working on to study COVID infections, MIT said. And their research showed that the virus can infect the inner ear, particularly hair cells and, to a lesser extent, Schwann cells, cells that keep peripheral nerve fibers alive.

“Having the models is the first step, and this work now paves the way for working not only with SARS-CoV-2, but also with other viruses that affect hearing,” Gehrke said.

Nine of the 10 patients suffered from tinnitus, six suffered from vertigo, and all suffered from mild to profound hearing loss.

Possible routes the virus can take to enter the ears include the Eustachian tube, which connects the nose to the middle ear.

Stankovic said the virus may also be able to escape from the nose through small openings surrounding the olfactory nerves. This would allow it to enter the brain space and infect cranial nerves, including the one that connects to the inner ear.

“This article provides very compelling evidence that Sars-CoV-2 infects the inner ear and may be causally linked to hearing and balance symptoms in a number of patients infected with COVID-19,” said Yuri Agrawal, professor of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The researchers said they hope to use their human cell models to test possible treatments for inner ear infections caused by SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.

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