A doctor checking comatose COVID-19 patients for signs of a stroke instead stumbled onto a new clue about how the virus may harm the lungs -- thanks to a test that used tiny air bubbles and a robot.

Dr. Alexandra Reynolds, a neurologist at New York's Mount Sinai Health System, initially was baffled as she tracked "the cacophony of sound" made by those harmless bubbles passing through the bloodstream of patient after patient.

Yet the weird finding excited lung specialists who now are studying if it helps explain why often, the sickest coronavirus patients don't get enough oxygen despite being on ventilators.

The tale illustrates how months into the pandemic, scientists still are struggling to unravel the myriad ways the coronavirus attacks -- and finding hints in surprising places.

As patients flooded New York hospitals last spring, Mount Sinai's intensive care unit that usually handles patients with brain diseases turned overnight into a COVID-19 ward, with patients heavily sedated as ventilators kept them alive.

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