Scientists warned the public Wednesday that COVID-19 might cause brain damage. According to MSNBC, coronavirus could cause brain “inflammation, psychosis and delirium.” One study from University College London (UCL) showed that 43 patients suffered strokes and nerve damage. Clinical data also links COVID-19 to serious brain issues. This study adds to those tying COVID-19 with brain damage.
Similar to Spanish Flu
This warning is more urgent now, as the world slowly lifts its lockdowns. One of the study’s leaders, Michael Zandi, compared their new research to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. In the 1920s, a wave of encephalitis spread after cities reopened to the public. Cities risk the second wave of illness if they resume business too soon. San Francisco suffered 600 new Spanish flu cases a day after it lifted restrictions. In total, the city tallied 45,000 cases, with 3,000 deaths.
As cases drop, people might relax. They think the worst is over, and the disease returns.
Though COVID-19 attacks the lungs, scientists worry about new evidence showing its effects on the brain. If the millions of patients recover, they might suffer from “cognitive deficits,” as Adrian Owen, a Canadian neuroscientist, told Reuters. Brain damage from COVID is “going to affect their ability to work,” he added. Owen also stressed the need to work on large-scale studies to probe these results.
The UCL study resulted in a “concerning increase” in cases of a rare neurological condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). Their study found nine patients with ADEM out of 43 subjects. Also, the data showed a sharp increase in the average rates of ADEM. Hospitals tend to see one ADEM case a month. Since COVID-19, it has risen to once a week. ADEM is also usually found in children. Viral infections could also trigger the condition.
Ross Paterson, co-leader of the study, said doctors need to be aware of COVID-19’s neurological effects. He added that scientists still do not know how long these effects could last.
The team published this study on the scientific journal Brain.
Owen hosts covidbrainstudy.com, a global research project. COVID-19 patients can sign up at the site. Once there, they can undergo further cognitive testing for any severe effects. The project charts the global impact of COVID-19 on patients’ brain functions.
Also, Owen aims to collect enough data for further study. “It’s so important to collect this information,” he told MSNBC.