UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Microglia fighting for neurological and mental health : On the central nervous system frontline of COVID-19 pandemic de Andrade, Elisa Gonçalves; Šimoncicová, Eva; Carrier, Micaël; Vecchiarelli, Haley A.; Robert, Marie-Ève; Tremblay, Marie-Ève (Neuroscientist)


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is marked by cardio-respiratory alterations, with increasing reports also indicating neurological and psychiatric symptoms in infected individuals. During COVID-19 pathology, the central nervous system (CNS) is possibly affected by direct severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) invasion, exaggerated systemic inflammatory responses, or hypoxia. Psychosocial stress imposed by the pandemic further affects the CNS of COVID-19 patients, but also the non-infected population, potentially contributing to the emergence or exacerbation of various neurological or mental health disorders. Microglia are central players of the CNS homeostasis maintenance and inflammatory response that exert their crucial functions in coordination with other CNS cells. During homeostatic challenges to the brain parenchyma, microglia modify their density, morphology, and molecular signature, resulting in the adjustment of their functions. In this review, we discuss how microglia may be involved in the neuroprotective and neurotoxic responses against CNS insults deriving from COVID-19. We examine how these responses may explain, at least partially, the neurological and psychiatric manifestations reported in COVID-19 patients and the general population. Furthermore, we consider how microglia might contribute to increased CNS vulnerability in certain groups, such as aged individuals and people with pre-existing conditions.

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Attribution 4.0 International