Dr Hilary Jones warns of 'brain fog' coronavirus symptom
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Severe Covid infections have been linked to a greater risk of neurocognitive symptoms during the recovery process.
A new study has found that these infections also cause the promotion of proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
This doesn’t yet mean that the coronavirus is capable of causing dementia.
Future research will be needed to explore the long term impact of the virus.
Researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine examined the blood of people with severe COVID-19 and experiencing neurological symptoms.
They found levels of some blood proteins and biomarkers for neurological damage were present at higher levels than in Alzheimer’s patients.
This study was conducted in the early waves of the pandemic, between March and May of 2020.
Longer term studies will examine the extent to which people are able to recover from this damage.
The study found a group of 251 patients with no history of cognitive cline or dementia before being hospitalised by the coronavirus.
There were also three control groups who had not been hospitalised from Covid, with no cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Blood tests used a technology capable of measuring proteins weighing one trillionth of a gram in a millilitre of blood.
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Lead author Professor Jennifer Frontera said: “Our findings suggest that patients hospitalized for COVID-19, and especially in those experiencing neurological symptoms during their acute infection, may have levels of brain injury markers that are as high as, or higher than, those seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Some of these proteins have been linked to the death or damage of neurons in the brain, such as tau.
Others, such as amyloid beta, have been known to accumulate in Alzheimer’s patients but haven’t been directly connected to cognitive decline.
Samples were also compared between those who were discharged from treatment and those who died in the hospital.
There was a 124 percent difference in marker levels between these two groups.
Between non-Covid infected people with and without neurological damage, this difference was 60 percent.
Senior author Professor Thomas Wisniewski explained that these proteins have been linked to higher risk of developing dementia, but is not causally related.
He said: “Traumatic brain injury, which is also associated with increases in these biomarkers, does not mean that a patient will develop Alzheimer’s or related dementia later on, but does increase the risk of it.
“Whether that kind of relationship exists in those who survive severe COVID-19 is a question we urgently need to answer with on-going monitoring of these patients.”
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