Blood Biomarkers for Detection of Brain Injury in COVID-19 Patients

Steven T. Dekosky, Patrick M. Kochanek, Alex B. Valadka, Robert S.B. Clark, Sherry H.Y. Chou, Alicia K. Au, Christopher Horvat, Ruchira M. Jha, Rebekah Mannix, Stephen R. Wisniewski, Max Wintermark, Susan E. Rowell, Robert D. Welch, Lawrence Lewis, Stacey House, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Darci R. Smith, Amy Y. Vittor, Nancy D. Denslow, Michael D. DavisOlena Y. Glushakova, Ronald L. Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus attacks multiple organs of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients, including the brain. There are worldwide descriptions of neurological deficits in COVID-19 patients. Central nervous system (CNS) symptoms can be present early in the course of the disease. As many as 55% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have been reported to have neurological disturbances three months after infection by SARS-CoV-2. The mutability of the SARS-COV-2 virus and its potential to directly affect the CNS highlight the urgency of developing technology to diagnose, manage, and treat brain injury in COVID-19 patients. The pathobiology of CNS infection by SARS-CoV-2 and the associated neurological sequelae of this infection remain poorly understood. In this review, we outline the rationale for the use of blood biomarkers (BBs) for diagnosis of brain injury in COVID-19 patients, the research needed to incorporate their use into clinical practice, and the improvements in patient management and outcomes that can result. BBs of brain injury could potentially provide tools for detection of brain injury in COVID-19 patients. Elevations of BBs have been reported in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood of COVID-19 patients. BB proteins have been analyzed in CSF to detect CNS involvement in patients with infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus and tuberculous meningitis. BBs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for diagnosis of mild versus moderate traumatic brain injury and have identified brain injury after stroke, cardiac arrest, hypoxia, and epilepsy. BBs, integrated with other diagnostic tools, could enhance understanding of viral mechanisms of brain injury, predict severity of neurological deficits, guide triage of patients and assignment to appropriate medical pathways, and assess efficacy of therapeutic interventions in COVID-19 patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-43
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • CNS injury
  • COVID-19
  • GFAP, SARS-CoV-2
  • UCH-L1
  • blood biomarkers


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