COVID-19 patients show more signs of brain damage than people with Alzheimer’s disease
New York – Could COVID-19 do more damage to the human brain than Alzheimer’s disease? A new study reveals that older patients who contract COVID have more signs of brain damage than people who develop the neurodegenerative disease.
Specifically, a team from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine found significantly higher levels of certain blood proteins that normally rise when someone experiences neurological damage among COVID patients. Over the course of the short-term infection, seven markers of brain damage were significantly higher among COVID patients than among patients without Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers say. One of those signs was more than doubled among coronavirus patients.
“Our findings suggest that patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, especially those who present with neurological symptoms during acute injury, may have levels of brain injury markers like or higher than those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. , lead author Jennifer Frontera, MD, professor in the department of neurology, says in a university statement.
What blood indicators should COVID patients worry about?
Study authors say the main sign of brain damage among COVID patients was the condition toxic metabolic encephalopathy (TME). Symptoms range from confusion to coma, due to toxins from the immune system’s reaction (sepsis), kidney failure, and lack of oxygen in the tissues.
The team examined 251 people who were hospitalized for COVID-19 during the first few months of the pandemic in 2020. The average age of the participants was 71, but all were generally healthy and had no history of dementia or cognitive decline before onset. Corona virus infection. The researchers divided these patients into two groups, those with or without neurological symptoms due to COVID-19.
From there, the team compared these individuals to a group of control patients from the Clinical Core group from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at NYU Langone. This group is part of the long-term New York University study of dementia and included 54 healthy adults, 54 people with mild cognitive decline, and 53 people with Alzheimer’s disease. None of the control group patients contracted COVID-19 during the study.
When it came to what the scientists were looking for, three blood markers–ubiquitin carboxy-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCHL1), total tau, and phosphorylated tau-181 (ptau181)–all measured the death or disruption of neurons in the brain.
Light chain levels of neurofilaments increase when brain axons are damaged. These are branch-like extensions that come from neurons. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) levels measure damage to glial cells, another type of brain cell that supports neurons. Finally, amyloid beta 40 and 42 are common markers that typically accumulate in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The results show that the seven signs of brain damage were 60 percent higher among COVID patients with TME than those without neurological symptoms.
Brain damage is worst among the fatal COVID cases
Worryingly, the study authors found that signs of brain damage were worse among patients who did not survive a coronavirus infection. The scores among patients who died of COVID were 124 percent higher than those who eventually left hospital.
Compared with Alzheimer’s patients, the results showed that light chain indices of neural filaments were 179% higher among short-term MERS patients. GFAP levels were also 65 percent higher among COVID patients than among dementia patients.
says senior author Thomas Wisniewski, MD, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at NYU Langone. “Whether this type of relationship exists in those who survive severe COVID-19 is a question we urgently need to answer with continued monitoring of these patients.”
The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia®: Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.