OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Some studies are starting to highlight some interesting findings Thursday. These deal with the brain and how the virus can last in multiple areas of the body for months.

“RNA, the genetic component of the virus, could be found throughout the body in almost every single organ system,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler. The University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer.

It turns out, COVID-19 does not just stick to, or only affect, the body’s respiratory system. Bratzler highlighted two studies, one from the National Institutes of Health, showing that the virus goes throughout the entire body, including the brain.

One study did autopsies on 44 people who got and recovered from COVID originally before dying later. These autopsies happened seven months after the onset of their COVID-19 symptoms. They found that COVID was in “multiple anatomic sites” before concluding that COVID can cause “systemic infection and can persist in the body for months.”

“The virus gets into the bloodstream, and it can spread throughout the entire body, including the brain,” Bratzler said.

Another study from the U.K. investigated brain aging in patients 50 and older. Of the 785 people studied, 401 got COVID-19 after their initial brain scan. After follow-up scans, they found those who were infected showed a decrease in thickness and tissue in some areas of the brain, compared to those who did not get the virus. The study noted that this is usually associated with worsening brain health.

“It was a fascinating study, but I thought it also explains so much,” Bratzler said.

Bratzler said their brains also shrunk in areas associated with senses of smell and taste, hence the losses of those when people got infected. However, Bratzler said there’s still a way to go to know just how much this virus will affect us down the road.

“We just don’t know, again, what the long-term consequences,” Bratzler said. “There are now studies that are suggesting that in some patients, COVID 19 may accelerate dementia. It may result in psychiatric illness, anxiety, depression are quite common.”

Bratzler mentioned the vaccine being a safe and effective way in lowering COVID-19’s effects on the body in the short term and long term. More information on both studies can be found below.