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Some flu strains can make mice forgetful

Memory trouble and brain changes lingered months after infection

1:00pm, February 26, 2018
H3N2 flu viruses

BRAIN DRAIN  Certain influenza viruses, like the H3N2 strain shown in this transmission electron micrograph, can cause memory trouble and brain damage in mice months after infection, a new study shows.

With fevers, chills and aches, the flu can pound the body. Some influenza viruses may hammer the brain, too. Months after being infected with influenza, mice had signs of brain damage and memory trouble, researchers report online February 26 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

It’s unclear if people’s memories are affected in the same way as those of mice. But the new research adds to evidence suggesting that some body-wracking infections could also harm the human brain, says epidemiologist and neurologist Mitchell Elkind of Columbia University, who was not involved in the study.

Obvious to anyone who has been waylaid by the flu, brainpower can suffer at the infection’s peak. But not much is known about any potential lingering effects on thinking or memory. “It hasn’t occurred to people that it might be something to test,” says neurobiologist Martin Korte of Technische

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