Updated: May 19
What is Neuritis?
Neuritis is inflammation of nerves that might result in sudden loss or diminishing of smell, taste, vision, or hearing depending on the nerve it affects. Few viral infections could initiate neuritis, and COVID-19 is the new one on the list.
Neuritis and COVID-19
The significant type of neuritis we have seen in COVI-19 is olfactory neuritis, resulting in loss of smell or taste. However, as the name indicates, optic neuritis affects the optic nerve and blurs the vision; it can even cause color blindness. Acoustic neuritis affects the acoustic nerve that results in loss or diminishing of hearing. Unlike olfactory neuritis that can be left untreated, we cannot leave optic neuritis and acoustic neuritis as they take 3 to 12months to get self-healed and affect a person's daily life. So, with a quick course of steroids, the healing process is put on the speed track.
Reinitiation of Neuritis witnessed in Covishield vaccine recipient.
Dr. K. R. Meghanadh says, “I have seen one patient who came back to me with hearing loss as her old neuritis got triggered by taking Covishield vaccine, and we had to restart the steroid course. Thankfully she recovered. There is a chance of not recovering. So, it is better to avoid if you have other types of vaccines in option and do not take a chance—especially those who had experienced vision loss or hearing loss and had undergone steroid treatment. Olfactory neuritis patients must have lesser risk when compared to optic and acoustic neuritis patients. They can take the risk of taking live vaccines”.
Covishield vaccine or AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine contains attenuated chimpanzee adenovirus, i.e., they have decreased the disease-causing ability of chimpanzee adenovirus. They then introduced COVID-19 spikes to the live-attenuated virus through genetic engineering, which can trick our body into believing it is the COVID-19 virus. When given a live-attenuated vaccine, it causes a very mild infection that our body can easily handle and prepares it for the actual attack. Although our body can fight the infection, the partly damaged nerves cannot handle this mild infection. In fact, any viral infection can reinduce neuritis, including the mild viral infection caused by Covishield. This makes reinitiation of neuritis a side effect of the Covishield vaccine or AstraZeneca oxford vaccine. Patients who experienced neuritis, especially optic and acoustic, due to COVID-19 or other viral infections must avoid live virus vaccines like the Covishield vaccine or AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine. These patients must prefer other vaccines if there is an option. Olfactory neuritis patients can go for the live virus vaccine if they do not have the option, as not taking a vaccine or waiting for other vaccines can cost you life, and it might not be worth waiting for other vaccines.