COVID-19 may accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in patients who suffer neurological symptoms such as brain fog or loss of smell and taste, early research suggests.
A seperate study has found that coronavirus patients are more susceptible to long-term memory and thinking problems. In the first case, scientists found higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease, which causes dementia, in the blood of people who had suffered neurological complications after being infected with the virus.
Heather M Snyder, Alzheimer’s Association vice-president for medical and scientific relations said:
These new data point to disturbing trends, showing COVID-19 infections leading to lasting cognitive impairment and even Alzheimer’s symptoms
With more than 190 million cases and nearly 4 million deaths worldwide, COVID-19 has devastated the entire world. It is imperative that we continue to study what this virus is doing to our bodies and brains.
As part of the research, scientists in the US took blood from 310 people in New York admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
Markers in the blood linked with Alzheimer’s were strongly associated with the presence of neurological symptoms during COVID-19 infection.
Thomas Wisniewski, a professor of neurology, pathology and psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, who led the research, said:
These findings suggest that patients who had Covid-19 may have an acceleration of Alzheimer’s-related symptoms and pathology.
More studies needed
Wisniewski said more studies were needed to establish how the biomarkers affect cognition in the long term in people who have had COVID-19.
It’s not known whether people suffering from COVID’s neurological symptoms who show signs of Alzheimer’s are already predisposed to the condition.
However, Alzheimer’s diagnoses also 'appear to be more common in patients in their 60s and 70s who have had severe COVID,' said Gabriel de Erausquin, a professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio.
Doctors have previously found that scans taken before and after a person develops COVID suggest it can cause changes that overlap with those seen in Alzheimer’s, and genetic studies show some of the genes that increase a person’s risk of getting severe COVID-19 also raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, NPR reported.