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COVID-19 and long COVID may be linked to impaired sensory neurons, a recent study Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study finds.
COVID-19 and long COVID may be linked to impaired sensory neurons, as a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study finds.

Sensory neurons are responsible for smell, taste, touch, pain, and changes in temperature. Damage to them may lead to impaired senses.

Surprisingly, the study found that infected neurons released viral proteins like the spike protein and nucleocapsid proteins rather than the virus releasing them.

Not all neurons were infected. All lab-made neurons were exposed to the Wuhan, delta, and omicron strains, but only up to 30 percent of the neurons were infected, with the omicron variant having the lowest infection rate.

Sensory neurons infected with SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. (Courtesy of Rudolf Jaenisch)
Sensory neurons infected with SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. (Courtesy of Rudolf Jaenisch)

Sensory Symptoms in Long COVID and Vaccine Injuries

Some doctors have suspected that the sensory problems, such as lost or impaired smell, taste, and hearing, and muscle pains, numbness, burning, and electrical shock sensations, seen in long COVID and vaccine-injured patients are due to the spike proteins on the COVID-19 virus’ surface. The mRNA and adenovirus vaccines similarly instruct the body to produce spike proteins.

The MIT study shows what “our clinical gut instinct” tells us is the cause of symptoms, neurologist Dr. Diane Counce told The Epoch Times.

Other factors may also be at play.

A common driver is inflammation. Inflammation occurs as immune cells clear out viruses and their proteins. Yet a constant state of inflammation is not viable for normal neural function, and neurons can become hyperreactive and damaged.

Some patients may also develop mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). In MCAS, patients become highly sensitive to any change in the environment. The histamine released in such a scenario irritates the nerves, causing neuropathic pain and itching. Swelling and mucus production due to this allergic response can also impair the senses if sensory neurons are near the site of histamine release.

Another increasingly recognized driver is microclotting.

“The nerves form a webbing around the blood vessels … If you have clotting, then you’re not feeding the nerves correctly,” Dr. Counce said, adding that this could cause something close to “infarcts in the nerves.”

Sensory problems from microclotting often manifest alongside other symptoms, including chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath.

These mechanisms can be affected simultaneously and overlap; therefore, several different therapeutics must often be prescribed to manage all the different systems, said internal medicine physician Dr. Keith Berkowitz.

Treatments That Clear Spike Proteins


Ivermectin is a first-line therapy in both treating COVID-19 infections and chronic long COVID and vaccine injuries.

The drug has a high affinity to the COVID-19 virus, including its spike protein, and can immobilize the proteins for immune clearance.

Dr. Berkowitz has found ivermectin to be very helpful in clearing acute COVID-19 infection, which also alleviates the infection’s loss of taste and smell.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been shown to impair and break down spike protein. Augmented NAC may be particularly potent in its effects.

Nurse practitioner Scott Marsland at the Leading Edge Clinic told The Epoch Times that long COVID and vaccine-injured patients may experience flare-ups of symptoms, and treatment with augmented NAC has been particularly helpful in controlling these.


Nattokinase is an enzyme derived from natto made from fermented soybeans. Japanese studies have shown that it can break down spike proteins in cell culture.

Apart from that, nattokinase also has robust anti-clotting capabilities. Therefore, the supplement can aid in the breakdown of blood clots that obstruct the sensory nerves from receiving adequate oxygen and nutrients.

Some of Mr. Marsland’s patients have reported improvements in their senses of smell and taste after taking a high dose of nattokinase twice daily.

Treatments That Reduce Inflammation

Intravenous Fluid Therapy

“When you have a virus, what do they first do in the hospital when you go in? Hydrate them,” Dr. Berkowitz told The Epoch Times.

He has observed that around 80 percent of his long-COVID and vaccine-injured patients would be more responsive to treatment after a few hydration sessions.

Dr. Counce explained that patients who need intravenous fluid therapy likely have small fiber neuropathy, which can affect sensory neurons.

Low-Dose Naltrexone

Naltrexone, when administered in lower doses—usually 1 to 5 milligrams per pill—exhibits anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.

In managing long-COVID- and vaccine-related injuries, Dr. Counce and pulmonary critical care specialist Dr. Pierre Kory have found the drug effective in treating neuropathies. Since the drug can reduce inflammation in neurons, doctors think it may have promise in treating smell-, taste-, and other related sensory problems.

Treatments That Inhibit Neural Overactivity

Dr. Berkowitz has observed that some patients’ nervous systems appear hyperreactive.

These patients are insomniac, anxious, have gastrointestinal problems, and often have neuropathic symptoms like pain and experience electric shock-like feelings. Some patients are also unresponsive to various long-COVID and vaccine-injury treatments like low-dose naltrexone.

Dr. Berkowitz found hydration therapy and gabapentin helpful treatments in these cases.


Gabapentin helps soothe the nervous system by mimicking gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which works as an inhibitor in neurons.

GABA slows and blocks nervous activity, creating a calming effect. Since the gut is a major producer of GABA, patients with gut problems may benefit from gabapentin.

Dr. Counce has observed that patients with severe neuropathic pain also tend to respond well to it.

Stellate Ganglion Block

Stellate ganglion blocks, an invasive operation that involves an anesthetic injection into the autonomic nerves, can reset hyperactive nerves, reduce stress, and return smell and taste to affected patients.

study published in May examined the effect of stellate ganglion block on 195 long-COVID patients at a pain clinic and found that 87.4 percent reported an improved sense of smell after receiving the injection.

Treatments That Repair Neurological Damage

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

Dr. Counce has found that patients tend to respond well to therapies that improve brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein related to neural growth and survival.

The mushroom lion’s mane boosts BDNF. In an animal study, rats had their sciatic nerves cut, making them unable to walk. After being supplemented with lion’s mane mushrooms, they could walk again.
Rhodiola rosea, a type of herbal medicine, can also increase BDNF levels.

NAC and resveratrol, commonly recommended supplements for long COVID and vaccine injury, also carry BDNF properties.

Treatments That Prevent Clotting


Curcumin is a phytonutrient derived from the ginger plant turmeric. Studies show that curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting effects. Therefore, many doctors have added curcumin to their treatment regimen, judging it to be helpful in breaking down blood clots.

The phytonutrient can also cross the blood-brain barrier to alleviate neuroinflammation. Research has shown it to help reduce neuropathic pain; other reports suggest it may also help treat loss of smell and taste in COVID.


Bromelain is an enzyme derived from pineapples. Since bromelain can digest gelatin, jelly companies advise against adding fresh pineapples to their mixtures to prevent the jelly from “setting.”

In the body, bromelain can break down fibrin, a component of blood clots, and is known to prevent coagulation and platelet aggregation, all of which may help to break down blood clots. Cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough recommends bromelain as part of his spike protein detox protocol (pdf).

Triple Therapy

Combining anticoagulants may create a more substantial synergistic effect than using one anticoagulant alone.

Professors Resia Pretorius and Douglas Kell have found the triple combination therapy of anticoagulants—clopidogrel and aspirin, anti-platelet apixaban, and proton pump inhibitor (PPI)—to be successful in treating blood clots.

Researchers placed a group of 24 long-COVID patients on this regimen for a month, and all patients experienced a significant improvement in symptoms, including muscle pain.
In March, the same researchers published a second preprint (pdf) on 91 patients, most of whom experienced a resolution of symptoms. The authors emphasized that “such a regime must only be followed under expert medical supervision in view of the risk of bleeding.”
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