Man gets rare brain injury from COVID test

This man had liquid coming out of his nose for 9 months, but it wasn't his nose that was leaking... it was his brain.

Brain injury from swab test
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Brain injury from swab test

Getting tested for COVID is certainly not a painless affair for having a long stick lodged far up your nose can be an incredibly unsettling feeling. The good thing about the test is that it lasts a fraction of a second and leaves no lingering aftereffects—well at least it’s not supposed to.

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Leak in his brain

In March 2020, a 40-year-old man from Czech Republic had to get his COVID test done after he came into contact with a person who tested positive. A mobile testing team came to his house and went through the usual nasal swab testing procedure. Although his results came out negative, he started noticing a weird symptom—his nose was constantly leaking and it lasted for a total of nine months.

This was not a long COVID symptom, as an antibodies test revealed that he was not infected, so the man assumed it was allergies. But after nine months, he decided to get it checked and a CT scan showed that he was actually suffering from a rare brain injury that was caused by the nasal swab test. The special case was highlighted in a report published in the JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery. The authors wrote:

We present a case of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak after skull base injury following nasal swab testing for COVID-19 in a patient with a previously intact skull base.

CSF leak

According to the authors of the article, the man was diagnosed with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. Cerebrospinal fluid is the clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and when there is a tear in the outermost layer of tissue that holds CSF, the fluid can then leak out.

This is a very rare but sometimes serious condition that can lead to meningitis—an infection of the membrane that surrounds and protects your brain and spinal cord. Luckily for the 40-year-old, he did not have any symptoms of meningitis. The authors wrote:

The patient had no other symptom except persistent unilateral nasal discharge from March to December 2020. During this period he did not report any signs of meningitis.
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