Covid linked to onslaught of ‘acute neurological symptoms’ – several conditions identified

Dr Amir Khan discusses 'variant proof' coronavirus vaccine

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The coronavirus has claimed millions of lives since its emergence, but even those lucky enough not to succumb to the virus continue to be afflicted with problems post-recovery. Researchers are therefore trying to characterise the long-term risks, particularly those that affect the brain. According to one expert, acute symptoms from several neurological syndromes could plague patients for months after infection.

Robyn S, Klein, professor of medical sciences at Washington University in Saint Louis confirmed during a presentation at the 2022 American Academic of Neurology annual meeting, that COVID-19 is linked to a wide range of neurological complications.

He noted: “While COVID-19 does not really demonstrate a lot of invasion of the central nervous system, it also can cause acute and chronic neurological diseases.”

Some of the acute neurological syndrome associated with the virus are headache, anosmia and fatigue, and less commonly, behavioural changes or rare instances of meningitis, encephalitis and cerebrovascular disease.

These are believed to occur as a result of the virus entering the body and binding via endocytosis – where a cell absorbs external material by engulfing it with the cell membrane.

READ MORE: Covid: Do you have ‘Covid digits’ on your fingers or toes? It occurs ‘more frequently’

Doctor Klein explained: “The vaccine was able to decrease some of these COVID neurological syndromes by about 50 percent, and we’re still dealing with patients who present with these symptoms.

“Patients without a history of neurological diseases who succumb to COVID-19 were also found to exhibit acute loss of hippocampal neurogenesis.”

The effects of the virus on growth and regeneration were brought to light by a recent Oxford University study.

Researchers found strong evidence for brain-related abnormalities following a reduction in the grey matter – the region of the brain that controls emotion and memory.

The team also found evidence of damage to the areas that control the sense of smell, explaining why anosmia may persist in some patients.

It is believed many of these symptoms result from the body’s widespread immune response to infection, rather than the virus having a direct effect on the brain or nervous system.

It’s been shown that changes in the cerebrospinal fluid are pronounced in people who have been infected by COVID-19.

“This includes the presence of antibodies – proteins made by the immune system to fight the virus – that may also react with the nervous system,” explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The findings chime with those of a 2021 study which highlighted a pronounced risk of neurological symptoms six months following a diagnosis with COVID-19.

The study of 236,379 patients with COVID-19, suggested the estimated incidence of neurological and psychiatric diagnosis following six months was 33.63 percent.

Researchers have called for further research to corroborate the findings and identify what long-term risks may exist.

One growing area of concern lies within the relationship between coronavirus and dementia.

Since rates of neurodegenerative disease are on course to reach 53 million by the mid-century, researchers are seeking to elucidate whether the virus carries long-term risks of cognitive decline.

The health platform Alzheimer’s explains: “There is evidence that infections such as coronavirus can cause a person’s dementia to get worse more quickly.

“With rehabilitation, it’s possible that the person can get some abilities back, although some deterioration will be permanent.”

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