London: A study by researchers at University College London (UCL) has warned of a potential wave of coronavirus-related brain damage as new evidence suggests the virus can lead to severe neurological complications, including inflammation, psychosis and delirium.
The study described 43 cases of patients with COVID-19 who suffered either temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage or other serious brain effects.
The research adds to recent studies which also found the disease can damage the brain.
“Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic — perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic — remains to be seen,” said Michael Zandi, from UCL’s Institute of Neurology, who co-led the study.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is largely a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, but neuroscientists and specialist brain doctors say emerging evidence of its impact on the brain is concerning.
“My worry is that we have millions of people with COVID-19 now. And if in a year’s time we have 10 million recovered people, and those people have cognitive deficits … then that’s going to affect their ability to work and their ability to go about activities of daily living,” Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at Western University in Canada, was quoted as saying by Reuters in an interview.
In the UCL study, published in the journal Brain, nine patients who had brain inflammation were diagnosed with a rare condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) which is more usually seen in children and can be triggered by viral infections.