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Acute worsening of CADASIL in a patient with COVID-19 infection: illustrative case

Jared S. Rosenblum, Jessa M. Tunacao, Matthew A. Nazari, Halle Ronk, Danielle D. Dang, Chad Downing, Zhengping Zhuang, John D. Heiss, James G. Smirniotopoulos, Avraham Bluestone, James Badia, and Joseph White


Reports of cerebrovascular ischemia and stroke occurring as predominant neurological sequelae of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), are increasingly evident within the literature. While various pathophysiological mechanisms have been postulated, including hypercoagulability, endothelial invasion, and systemic inflammation, discrete mechanisms for viral neurotropism remain unclear and controversial.


The authors present a unique case study of a 64-year-old male with acute COVID-19 infection and acute worsening of previously stable cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL), a rare heritable arteriopathy due to mutation in the Notch3 gene, which is critical for vascular development and tone. Delayed cranial neuropathies, brainstem fluid-attenuated inversion recovery signal, and enhancement of olfactory and vagus nerves on magnetic resonance neurography in this patient further support viral neurotropism via cranial nerves in addition to cerebral vasculature.


To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first case in the literature that not only demonstrates the consequences of COVID-19 infection in a patient with altered cerebrovascular autoregulation such as CADASIL but also highlights the tropism of SARS-CoV-2 for (1) cranial nerves as a mode of entry to the central nervous system and (2) vessels as a cause of cerebrovascular ischemia.