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Researchers Link COVID-19 with Brain Disorders

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 08/26/2022 - 12:16

COVID-19 infection was associated with increased risks of neurological and psychiatric sequelae in the weeks and months after recovery, found a study posted by The Lancet. Mental confusion, psychosis, seizures and dementia are some of the brain disorders that occurred among those who suffered from COVID-19. In some cases, the disorder appeared up to two years after infection.

Brain studies of COVID-19 patients increased after the first peaks. In a previous study, researchers in Italy carried out a retrospective-prospective observational study of patients with COVID-19 who presented neurological signs and symptoms at the onset of the disease or as a complication. The patients were followed up for six months, during which doctors monitored their demographic data, healthy habits, comorbidities, clinical characteristics and imaging, biochemical, and neurophysiological data. Researchers found the manifestation of problems in the cognitive nervous system, peripheral nerves and muscle involvement in some patients who recovered from COVID-19, which might have long-lasting neurological sequelae.

Researchers at the University of Oxford used this and other data to develop a two-year study on the neurological and psychiatric affectations of COVID-19. The study, carried out on over 1 million patients, showed an increased and persistent risk of psychotic disorder, cognitive deficit, dementia and epilepsy or seizures.

One of the most concerning findings of the future of health systems was the sustained neurological and psychiatric outcomes from the delta and omicron variants, which were significantly less impactful on patients but appear to have the same brain affectations. “The comparable risks seen after the emergence of omicron indicate that the neurological and psychiatric burden of COVID-19 might continue even with variants that lead to otherwise less severe disease,” reads the paper.

The study concluded that post-COVID-19 neurological and psychiatric outcomes followed different risk trajectories: the risk of cognitive deficit, dementia, psychotic disorder and epilepsy or seizures remained increased at two years after a COVID-19 diagnosis. The risks of other diagnoses such as mood and anxiety disorders lessened early and showed no overall excess over the 2-year follow-up. Children were not found to be at increased risk of mood or anxiety disorders but share adults’ risk of several other diagnoses.

Studies in Mexico found that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened previous neurological/psychiatric diseases. A study conducted at the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery Manuel Velasco Suárez (INNNMVS) confirmed the impact of the pandemic on patients with neurological/psychiatric diseases.

“Confinement, lack of medical care and the threat of diagnosis are surely contributing factors. Although the finding of a higher frequency of worsening in symptomatic COVID-19 patients may be related to greater anxiety/depression in this group of patients, we cannot exclude the role of direct affectation of the nervous system by the virus or damage due to neuroinflammation,” reads the study.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst