Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy or Guillain-Barré syndrome associated with COVID-19: a case report

Journal of Medical Case Reports volume 15, Article number: 219 (2021) 



Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic. The disease, typically characterized by bilateral pulmonary infiltrates and profound elevation of inflammatory markers, can range in severity from mild or asymptomatic illness to a lethal cytokine storm and respiratory failure. A number of recognized complications of COVID-19 infection are described in the literature. Common neurological complications include headache and anosmia. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an uncommon complication described in isolated case reports. However, a causal relationship has yet to be established. This case report adds to the growing body of evidence that GBS is a potential COVID-19 complication.

Case presentation

A 70-year-old Caucasian woman with recently diagnosed COVID-19 infection presented to the emergency department with 4 days of gradually worsening ascending lower extremity weakness. Exam revealed bilateral lower extremity weakness, mute reflexes, and sensory loss. Soon after starting intravenous administration of immunoglobulin (IVIG), the patient developed respiratory distress, eventually requiring intubation. She remained intubated for the duration of her IVIG treatment. After five rounds of treatment, the patient was successfully extubated and transferred to acute rehab. Following 4 weeks of intense physical therapy, she was able to walk with assistance on room air.


At the present time, this is one of the few reports of acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP) or GBS associated with COVID-19 in the United States. It is unclear whether a causal relationship exists given the nature of the syndrome. However, in light of the growing number of reported cases, physicians should be aware of this possible complication when evaluating COVID-19 patients.

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Coronavirus and the Nervous System

What is SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are common causes of usually mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses like the common cold, with symptoms that may include runny nose, fever, sore throat, cough, or a general feeling of being ill. However, a new coronavirus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged and spread to cause the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19, which means Coronavirus disease 2019, is an infectious disease that can affect people of all ages in many ways. It is most dangerous when the virus spreads from the upper respiratory tract into the lungs to cause viral pneumonia and lung damage leading to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). When severe, this impairs the body’s ability to maintain critical levels of oxygen in the blood stream—which can cause multiple body systems to fail and can be fatal.

What do we know about the effects of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 on the nervous system?

Much of the research to date has focused on the acute infection and saving lives. These strategies have included preventing infection with vaccines, treating COVID-19 symptoms with medicines or antibodies, and reducing complications in infected individuals.

Research shows the many neurological symptoms of COVID-19 are likely a result of the body’s widespread immune response to infection rather than the virus directly infecting the brain or nervous system. In some people, the SARS-CoV-2 infection causes an overreactive response of the immune system which can also damage body systems. Changes in the immune system have been seen in studies of the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain, in people who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2. This includes the presence of antibodies—proteins made by the immune system to fight the virus—that may also react with the nervous system. Although still under intense investigation, there is no evidence of widespread viral infection in the brain. Scientists are still learning how the virus affects the brain and other organs in the long-term. Research is just beginning to focus on the role of autoimmune reactions and other changes that cause the set of symptoms that some people experience after their initial recovery. It is unknown if injury to the nervous system or other body organs cause lingering effects that will resolve over time, or whether COVID-19 infection sets up a more persistent or even chronic disorder.

What are the immediate (acute) effects of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 on the brain?

Most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus will have no or mild to moderate symptoms associated with the brain or nervous system. However, most individuals hospitalized due to the virus do have symptoms related to the brain or nervous system, most commonly including muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, and altered taste and smell. Some people with COVID-19 either initially have, or develop in the hospital, a dramatic state of confusion called delirium. Although rare, COVID-19 can cause seizures or major strokes. Muscular weakness, nerve injury, and pain syndromes are common in people who require intensive care during infections. There are also very rare reports of conditions that develop after SARS-CoV-2 infection, as they sometimes do with other types of infections. These disorders of inflammation in the nervous system include Guillain-Barré syndrome (which affects nerves), transverse myelitis (which affects the spinal cord), and acute necrotizing leukoencephalopathy (which affects the brain).

Bleeding in the brain, weakened blood vessels, and blood clots in acute infection

The SARS-CoV-2 virus attaches to a specific molecule (called a receptor) on the surface of cells in the body. This molecule is concentrated in the lung cells but is also present on certain cells that line blood vessels in the body. The infection causes some arteries and veins—including those in the brain—to  become thin, weaken, and leak. Breaks in small blood vessels have caused bleeding in the brain (so-called microbleeds) in some people with COVID-19 infection. Studies in people who have died due to COVID-19 infection show leaky blood vessels in different areas of the brain that allow water and a host of other molecules as well as blood cells that are normally excluded from the brain to move from the blood stream into the brain. This leak, as well as the resulting inflammation around blood vessels, can cause multiple small areas of damage. COVID-19 also causes blood cells to clump and form clots in arteries and veins throughout the body. These blockages reduce or block the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients that cells need to function and can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

stroke is a sudden interruption of continuous blood flow to the brain. A stroke occurs either when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or narrowed or when a blood vessel bursts and spills blood into the brain. Strokes can damage brain cells and cause permanent disability. The blood clots and vascular (relating to the veins, capillaries, and arteries in the body) damage from COVID-19 can cause strokes even in young healthy adults who do not have the common risk factors for stroke.

COVID-19 can cause blood clots in other parts of the body, too. A blood clot in or near the heart can cause a heart attack. A heart attack orInflammation in the heart, called myocarditis, can causeheart failure, and reduce the flow of blood to other parts of the body. A blood clot in the lungs can impair breathing and cause pain. Blood clots also can damage the kidneys and other organs.

Low levels of oxygen in the body (called hypoxia) can permanently damage the brain and other vital organs in the body. Some hospitalized individuals require artificial ventilation on respirators. To avoid chest movements that oppose use of the ventilator it may be necessary to temporarily “paralyze” the person and use anesthetic drugs to put the individual to sleep. Some individuals with severe hypoxia require artificial means of bringing oxygen into their blood stream, a technique called extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Hypoxia combined with these intensive care unit measure generally cause cognitive disorders that show slow recovery.

Diagnostic imaging of some people who have had COVID-19 show changes in the brain’s white matter that contains the long nerve fibers, or “wires,” over which information flows from one brain region to another. These changes may be due to a lack of oxygen in the brain, the inflammatory immune system response to the virus, injury to blood vessels, or leaky blood vessels. This “diffuse white matter disease” might contribute to cognitive difficulties in people with COVID-19. Diffuse white matter disease is not uncommon in individuals requiring intensive hospital care but it not clear if it also occurs in those with mild to moderate severity of COVID-19 illness.

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More than 50 Long-Term Effects of COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Authors: López-León SWegman-Ostrosky TPerelman CSepulveda RRebolledo PACuapio AVillapol S Preprint from SSRN, 20 Jan 2021


Background: COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, can involve sequelae that last weeks to months after initial recovery. The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to identify studies assessing the long-term effects of COVID-19 and estimate the prevalence of each symptom, sign, or laboratory parameters of patients at a post-COVID-19 stage.

Methods: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, LitCOVID (PubMed and Medline) and Embase were searched by two independent researchers. Studies published before 1st of January 2021 and with a minimum of 100 patients were included. For effects reported in two or more studies, meta-analyses using a random-effects model were performed using the MetaXL software to estimate the pooled prevalence with 95% CI. Heterogeneity was assessed using the I2 statistics. PRISMA guidelines were followed.

Findings: A total of 18,251 publications were identified, of which 15 met the inclusion criteria. The prevalence of 55 long-term effects was estimated, 21 meta-analyses were performed, and 47,910 patients were included. The follow-up time ranged from 15 to 110 days post-viral infection. The age of the study participants ranged between 17 and 87 years. It was estimated that 80% (95% CI 65-92) of the patients that were infected with SARS-CoV-2 developed one or more symptoms. The five most common symptoms were fatigue (58%), headache (44%), attention disorder (27%), hair loss (25%), and dyspnea (24%). In order to have a better understanding, there is a need for studies to stratify by sex, age, previous comorbidities, severity of COVID-19 (including asymptomatic), and duration of each symptom.

Interpretation: From the clinical perspective, multi-disciplinary teams are crucial to developing preventive measures, rehabilitation techniques, and clinical management strategies with whole-patient perspectives designed to address after-COVID-19 care.

Funding: National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and Houston Methodist Research Institute, Houston, TX.

Declaration of Interests: SLL is an employee of Novartis Pharmaceutical Company; the statements presented in the paper do not necessarily represent the position of the company. The remaining authors have no competing interests to declare.

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COVID-19 vaccines and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome

Authors: Chih-Cheng Lai 1Wen-Chien Ko 2Chih-Jung Chen 3Po-Yen Chen 4Yhu-Chering Huang 3Ping-Ing Lee 5Po-Ren Hsueh 6 7


Introduction: To combat COVID-19, scientists all over the world have expedited the process of vaccine development. Although interim analyses of clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, a serious but rare adverse event, thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), has been reported following COVID-19 vaccination.

Areas covered: This review, using data from both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed studies, aimed to provide updated information about the critical issue of COVID-19 vaccine-related TTS.

Expert opinion: : The exact epidemiological characteristics and possible pathogenesis of this adverse event remain unclear. Most cases of TTS developed in women within 2 weeks of the first dose of vaccine on the receipt of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and Ad26.COV2.S vaccines. In countries with mass vaccination against COVID-19, clinicians should be aware of the relevant clinical features of this rare adverse event and perform related laboratory and imaging studies for early diagnosis. Non-heparin anticoagulants, such as fondaparinux, argatroban, or a direct oral anticoagulant (e.g. apixaban or rivaroxaban) and intravenous immunoglobulins are recommended for the treatment of TTS. However, further studies are required to explore the underlying mechanisms of this rare clinical entity.

Plain language summary: What is the context? Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) usually develops within 2 weeks of the first doses of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and Ad26.COV2.S COVID-19 vaccines. TTS mainly occurs in patients aged < 55 years and is associated with high morbidity and mortality. What is new? TTS mimics autoimmune heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and can be mediated by platelet-activating antibodies against platelet factor 4. Non-heparin anticoagulants, such as fondaparinux, argatroban, or a direct oral anticoagulant (e.g. apixaban or rivaroxaban) should be considered as the treatment of choice if the platelet count is > 50 × 109/L and there is no serious bleeding. Intravenous immunoglobulins and glucocorticoids may help increase the platelet count within days and reduce the risk of hemorrhagic transformation when anticoagulation is initiated. What is the impact? TTS should be a serious concern during the implementation of mass COVID-19 vaccination, and patients should be educated about this complication along with its symptoms such as severe headache, blurred vision, seizure, severe and persistent abdominal pain, painful swelling of the lower leg, and chest pain or dyspnea. The incidence of TTS is low; therefore, maintenance of high vaccination coverage against COVID-19 should be continued.

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Long covid: Damage to multiple organs presents in young, low risk patients

Authors: Gareth Iacobucci BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 17 November 2020)Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4470

Young, low risk patients with ongoing symptoms of covid-19 had signs of damage to multiple organs four months after initially being infected, a preprint study has suggested.1

Initial data from 201 patients suggest that almost 70% had impairments in one or more organs four months after their initial symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The results emerged as the NHS announced plans to establish a network of more than 40 long covid specialist clinics across England this month to help patients with long term symptoms of infection.

The prospective Coverscan study examined the impact of long covid (persistent symptoms three months post infection) across multiple organs in low risk people who are relatively young and had no major underlying health problems. Assessment was done using results from magnetic resonance image scans, blood tests, and online questionnaires.

The research has not yet been peer reviewed and could not establish a causal link between organ impairment and infection. But the authors said the results had “implications not only for [the] burden of long covid but also public health approaches which have assumed low risk in young people with no comorbidities.”

The study enrolled participants at two UK sites in Oxford and London between April and August 2020. Two hundred and one individuals (mean age 44 (standard deviation 11.0) years) completed assessments after SARS-CoV-2 infection a median of 140 days after initial symptoms.

Participants were eligible if they tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by random polymerase chain reaction swab (n=62), a positive antibody test (n=63), or had typical symptoms and were determined to have covid-19 by two independent clinicians (n=73).

The prevalence of pre-existing conditions was low (obesity: 20%, hypertension: 6%, diabetes: 2%, heart disease: 4%), and less than a fifth (18%) of individuals had been hospitalised with covid-19.

The most commonly reported ongoing symptoms—regardless of hospitalization status—were fatigue (98%), muscle ache (88%), shortness of breath (87%), and headache (83%). There was evidence of mild organ impairment in the heart (32% of patients), lungs (33%), kidneys (12%), liver (10%), pancreas (17%), and spleen (6%).

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The Problem of ‘Long Haul’ COVID

More and more patients are dealing with major symptoms that linger for months

Authors: By Carolyn Barber on December 29, 2020

It was just a couple of months into the pandemic when patients in online support groups began describing the phenomenon. In some emergency departments, they said, their complaints were largely being dismissed—or at the very least diminished—by health care professionals. The patients felt they were not being heard, or perhaps even were outright disbelieved.

The common thread through these comments was a basic one. Each of the patients had already been infected with COVID-19 and presumably had recovered, yet each was still dealing with symptoms of the disease—sometimes vague, sometimes nonspecific—that simply would not go away. Physicians and nurses, already overloaded with emergent cases of the virus, were baffled, often searching for other, more benign explanations for what they were being told.

We now have a term for those patients—and the truth is, “long hauler” only begins to describe the COVID-related ordeals they are enduring. Of all the facets of the virus we have dealt with in 2020, this one may ultimately prove the most difficult to recognize, much less combat.

Long-haul COVID patients carry their symptoms well beyond what we’ve come to understand as a “normal” course of recovery. It can last for weeks. For some long haulers, it has been months—and counting. And to the consternation of physicians and nurses on the front lines, the symptoms of these patients often present as so varied and relatively common that they defy a solid COVID-related diagnosis.

If a patient comes to the emergency department (E.D.) complaining of dizziness, forgetfulness and headache, for example, is that long-haul COVID or something else entirely? How about fatigue? A persistent cough? Muscle aches and insomnia? Relapsing fevers?

With little to go on, and lacking clinical guidance, some of us in the E.D. have instructed our patients to go home, get more rest, “try to relax.” We’ve offered reassurances that everything would be okay with more time, checked off the final diagnosis box for something like anxiety or chronic fatigue on our computers, and moved on to see our next patients.

But there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that a surprising number of people are, in fact, COVID long haulers, and that hospital emergency departments and clinics may be dealing with them for months and months to come.

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Reactogenicity Following Receipt of mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines

Authors: Johanna Chapin-Bardales, PhD, MPH1Julianne Gee, MPH1Tanya Myers, PhD, MSc1

In December 2020, 2 mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) were granted Emergency Use Authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration as 2-dose series and recommended for use by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.13 In late February 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization for a third COVID-19 vaccine, a single-dose adenovirus vector-based vaccine from Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

In clinical trials of the mRNA-based 2-dose vaccines, participants reported local and systemic reactions (reactogenicity).4,5 Frequently reported reactions included injection site pain, fatigue, and headache; greater reactogenicity was reported following the second dose.4,5 Continued monitoring of reactogenicity of COVID-19 vaccines outside of clinical trial settings may provide additional information for health care practitioners and the public about transient local and systemic reactions following COVID-19 vaccination.

V-safe Active Surveillance System

To facilitate rapid assessment of COVID-19 vaccines, in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established v-safe, a new active surveillance system for collecting near–real-time data from COVID-19 vaccine recipients in the US. V-safe participants voluntarily self-enroll and receive periodic smartphone text messages to initiate web-based health surveys from the day of vaccination (day 0) through 12 months after the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.6 From day 0 through day 7 after each vaccine dose, participants are asked questions about solicited local and systemic reactions (eg, injection site pain, fatigue, headache). These solicited reactions do not include allergic reactions or anaphylaxis; however, v-safe does allow participants to enter free-text information about their postvaccination experience and asks about adverse health events (eg, received medical care). Medically attended events are followed up on through active telephone outreach; future analyses will address these adverse vaccine experiences. This report describes information on solicited local and systemic reactogenicity reported to v-safe on days 0 to 7 after each dose of vaccine from December 14, 2020, through February 28, 2021. Responses were limited to individuals who were vaccinated by February 21, 2021, to allow a 7-day reporting period after the day of vaccination. Preliminary data from v-safe through January 13, 2021, have been previously reported.7 This activity was reviewed by the CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy (see Additional Information).

Self-reported Local and Systemic Reactions Among V-safe Participants

By February 21, 2021, more than 46 million persons received at least 1 dose of an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.8 A total of 3 643 918 persons were enrolled in v-safe and completed at least 1 health survey within 7 days following their first vaccine dose; 1 920 872 v-safe participants reported receiving a second vaccine dose and completed at least 1 daily health survey within 7 days following the second dose. Solicited local and systemic reactions during days 0 to 7 after each dose were assessed.

Most v-safe participants reported an injection site reaction (dose 1: 70.0%; dose 2: 75.2%) or a systemic reaction (dose 1: 50.0%; dose 2: 69.4%) during days 0 to 7 after vaccination (Table). The most frequently reported solicited local and systemic reactions after the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine were injection site pain (67.8%), fatigue (30.9%), headache (25.9%), and myalgia (19.4%). Reactogenicity was substantially greater after the second dose for both vaccines, particularly for systemic reactions, including fatigue (53.9%), headache (46.7%), myalgia (44.0%), chills (31.3%), fever (29.5%), and joint pain (25.6%).Table.  Solicited Local and Systemic Reactionsa to mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines Reported 0 to 7 Days After Vaccination—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention V-safe Surveillance System, December 14, 2020, to February 28, 2021 View LargeDownload

Solicited Local and Systemic Reactionsa to mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines Reported 0 to 7 Days After Vaccination—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention V-safe Surveillance System, December 14, 2020, to February 28, 2021

A greater percentage of participants who received the Moderna vaccine, compared with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, reported reactogenicity; this pattern was more pronounced after the second dose (Table). When stratified by age (<65 vs ≥65 years), differences in reactogenicity by vaccine remained consistent with overall findings (data not shown). Local and systemic reactions were less commonly reported by v-safe participants 65 years and older compared with those younger than 65 years, but greater reactogenicity after the second dose was observed for both age groups (eFigure in the Supplement). For both doses of both vaccines, the percentage of v-safe participants who reported local and systemic reactions was highest on day 1 after vaccination and declined markedly through day 7.

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Neurology and neuropsychiatry of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the early literature reveals frequent CNS manifestations and key emerging narratives


  1. Jonathan P Rogers1,2, Cameron J Watson3,


There is accumulating evidence of the neurological and neuropsychiatric features of infection with SARS-CoV-2. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we aimed to describe the characteristics of the early literature and estimate point prevalences for neurological and neuropsychiatric manifestations.

We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO and CINAHL up to 18 July 2020 for randomised controlled trials, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies and case series. Studies reporting prevalences of neurological or neuropsychiatric symptoms were synthesised into meta-analyses to estimate pooled prevalence.

13 292 records were screened by at least two authors to identify 215 included studies, of which there were 37 cohort studies, 15 case-control studies, 80 cross-sectional studies and 83 case series from 30 countries. 147 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The symptoms with the highest prevalence were anosmia (43.1% (95% CI 35.2% to 51.3%), n=15 975, 63 studies), weakness (40.0% (95% CI 27.9% to 53.5%), n=221, 3 studies), fatigue (37.8% (95% CI 31.6% to 44.4%), n=21 101, 67 studies), dysgeusia (37.2% (95% CI 29.8% to 45.3%), n=13 686, 52 studies), myalgia (25.1% (95% CI 19.8% to 31.3%), n=66 268, 76 studies), depression (23.0% (95% CI 11.8% to 40.2%), n=43 128, 10 studies), headache (20.7% (95% CI 16.1% to 26.1%), n=64 613, 84 studies), anxiety (15.9% (5.6% to 37.7%), n=42 566, 9 studies) and altered mental status (8.2% (95% CI 4.4% to 14.8%), n=49 326, 19 studies). Heterogeneity for most clinical manifestations was high.

Neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms of COVID-19 in the pandemic’s early phase are varied and common. The neurological and psychiatric academic communities should develop systems to facilitate high-quality methodologies, including more rapid examination of the longitudinal course of neuropsychiatric complications of newly emerging diseases and their relationship to neuroimaging and inflammatory biomarkers.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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Virology, transmission, and pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2

Authors: Muge Cevik, clinical lecturer2,  Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor3,  Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor of virology4,  Malik Peiris, professor of virology5

What you need to know

  • SARS-CoV-2 is genetically similar to SARS-CoV-1, but characteristics of SARS-CoV-2—eg, structural differences in its surface proteins and viral load kinetics—may help explain its enhanced rate of transmission
  • In the respiratory tract, peak SARS-CoV-2 load is observed at the time of symptom onset or in the first week of illness, with subsequent decline thereafter, indicating the highest infectiousness potential just before or within the first five days of symptom onset
  • Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests can detect viral SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the upper respiratory tract for a mean of 17 days; however, detection of viral RNA does not necessarily equate to infectiousness, and viral culture from PCR positive upper respiratory tract samples has been rarely positive beyond nine days of illness
  • Symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission (1-2 days before symptom onset), is likely to play a greater role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 than asymptomatic transmission
  • A wide range of virus-neutralizing antibodies have been reported, and emerging evidence suggests that these may correlate with severity of illness but wane over time.

Since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in December 2019, there has been an unparalleled global effort to characterize the virus and the clinical course of disease. Coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19), caused by SARS-CoV-2, follows a biphasic pattern of illness that likely results from the combination of an early viral response phase and an inflammatory second phase. Most clinical presentations are mild, and the typical pattern of covid-19 more resembles an influenza-like illness—which includes fever, cough, malaise, myalgia, headache, and taste and smell disturbance—rather than severe pneumonia (although emerging evidence about long term consequences is yet to be understood in detail).1 In this review, we provide a broad update on the emerging understanding of SARS-CoV-2 pathophysiology, including virology, transmission dynamics, and the immune response to the virus. Any of the mechanisms and assumptions discussed in the article and in our understanding of covid-19 may be revised as further evidence emerges.

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