UCSD Study Finds Short and Long-Term Neurological Impacts from COVID-19

covid-19 virus
New coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Photo via @UCSDJacobs

The “long-term” neurological impact of COVID-19 is significant, even six months after infection, according to the first round of research published Wednesday by UC San Diego Scientists.

The results, published in Wednesday’s Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, found a variety of short- and long-term symptoms, and while many patients showed improvement, the majority still had some neurological symptoms half a year later. In addition, a subset of people also presented important coordination and cognitive issues that had not been previously described.

“It is encouraging that most people showed some improvement in six months, but that was not the case for everyone,” said senior author Dr. Jennifer Graves, Associate Professor at UCSD School of Medicine and Neurologist at UCSD Health.

Following mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infections, 56 individuals with neurological symptoms were enrolled in the study from October 2020 to October 2021. They completed neurological examination, cognitive assessment, self-reported questionnaires, and optional brain scan. The basic measurements were taken a few months after their initial infection and were repeated three and six months later.

At the time of the first visit, 89% of participants were experiencing fatigue and 80% reported headaches. According to the research, other common neurological symptoms included memory impairment, insomnia and decreased concentration. A full 80% said these symptoms affected their quality of life.

When participants returned for the six-month follow-up, only one-third reported complete remission of symptoms. The other two-thirds reported persistent neurological symptoms, although most had decreased in severity. The most common symptoms at six months were memory impairment and decreased concentration.

The authors wrote that none of the individuals with persistent symptoms at six months had a history of pre-existing neurological conditions prior to their infections.

“Some of these participants are high-level professionals who would expect to score above average in cognitive assessments, but months after the onset of COVID-19, they still score unusual scores,” Graves said.

A surprising result was that 7% of participants experienced a previously unknown set of symptoms that included cognitive deficits, tremor, and difficulty balancing. The authors named the phenotype post-acute consequences of COVID-19 infection with tremor, ataxia and cognitive deficit – abbreviated PASC-TAC.

“These are people who did not have neurological problems before COVID-19 and now have a lack of coordination in their body and a possible lack of coordination in their thinking,” Graves said. “We did not expect to find this, so we want to know the word in case other doctors see it.”

Research is ongoing into how much the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters the brain directly, but Graves said these delayed neurological symptoms are more likely to be caused by an infection that triggers an inflammatory autoimmune response in the brain.

The UCSD team plans to continue to monitor participants’ symptoms annually for up to 10 years. Additional efforts will evaluate how different variants and COVID-19 vaccines affect long-term neurological symptoms.

“Affecting people’s knowledge and quality of life so long after infection is something we need to look at seriously as a society,” Graves said. “We still need to know how common this is, what biological processes cause it and what ongoing health care these people will need. “This job is an important first step in getting there.”

– City news service

UCSD Study Finds Short and Long-Term Neurological Impacts from COVID-19 Source link UCSD Study Finds Short and Long-Term Neurological Impacts from COVID-19

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