UNITED STATES: Research suggests that Covid-19 may accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in patients who suffer neurological symptoms including loss of smell and taste, and cognitive and attention deficits, known as “brain fog.”
Coronavirus patients are more susceptible to persistent cognitive deficits like long-term memory and thinking problems, a separate study has found.
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In the first case, scientists found that after being infected with the virus, people who had suffered neurological complications showed higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease, which causes dementia.
“This new data point to disturbing trends, showing Covid-19 infections leading to lasting cognitive impairment and even Alzheimer’s symptoms,” said Heather M Snyder, Alzheimer’s Association vice-president for medical and scientific relations.
As part of the research, scientists in the U.S. took blood from 310 people hospitalized with Covid in New York.
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 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.”
But he said more studies were needed to understand how the biomarkers affect cognition in the long term in people who have had Covid-19.
However, it cannot be overlooked that Alzheimer’s appears 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.
The new findings, which have yet to be published, were presented at the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association international conference in Colorado, U.S.
Separate research has developed a link between Covid-19 and long-term memory and thinking problems.
Researchers at the University of Texas looked at more than 200 adults from Argentina with Covid-19 and compared them with 64 healthy individuals. It was found that memory problems were linked to loss of smell, but not to the severity of Covid-19 infection.
These participants were observed for up to six months after Covid infection, and more than half showed persistent problems with forgetfulness, and around one in four had additional problems with cognition, including with language.
“The evidence for persistent problems with memory and thinking after a Covid-19 infection isn’t yet clear, and like all findings presented at conferences, we must wait to see them published in full and scrutinised by other experts to draw firmer conclusions,” suggested Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research U.K.