Scientists have established that the disease affects the central nervous system. It has implications for long Covid which has struck down about 1.5 million Britons. In experiments, monkeys also suffered small strokes, or bleeds.
Lead author Professor Tracy Fischer, of the Tulane National Primate Research Center,
Louisiana, said: “Because the subjects didn’t experience significant respiratory symptoms, no one expected them to have the severity of disease we found in the brain.
“But the findings were distinct and profound and undeniably a result of the infection.”
She added: “Even minor, but sustained, reductions in oxygen may promote injury.”
Prof Fischer said it was “reasonable to anticipate similar findings may occur among human subjects”.
The study focused on eight macaques and four African green monkeys that were deliberately exposed to Covid.
It could lead to treatments for patients suffering from the neurological consequences of long Covid.About 400,000 people in the UK have had symptoms for more than a year.
The study was published in Nature Communications.