Coronavirus may cause long term brain injury

Coronavirus: 'Prepare for another surge in winter' says Nabarro

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One of the impacts of the virus says, doctors, is long-term injury to the brain; this is according to a large US study, the results of which were published earlier this week.

The results of the year-long study were published in the Nature Medicine and assessed the brain health and the impact of 44 different disorders in millions of US veterans.

The study showed that neurological disorders occurred in more than seven percent of those who had been infected with COVID-19 in comparison to those who had never been infected.

Senior author of the study Dr Ziyad Al-Aly said: “The results show the devastating long-term effects of COVID-19.”

Dr Al-Aly and his team compare the records of US veterans during two time periods, one before the pandemic began and the other during. Overall, they assessed 154,000 veterans who tested positive for Covid between the 1st of March 2020 and the 15th January 2021.

The most common symptoms experienced by the veterans were those that affected the mind such as brain fog; those veterans who tested positive were 77 percent more likely to develop the disorder than those who had not had Covid.

Meanwhile, those with the virus were 50 percent more likely to experience an ischemic stroke, defined as one caused by blood clots.

Furthermore, other data suggested those with Covid were:
• 80 percent more likely to have seizures
• 43 percent more likely to have anxiety or depression
• 35 percent more likely to have headaches
• 42 percent more likely to suffer from movement disorders.

As a result of their findings, the authors said health services needed to be prepared for a post-pandemic world.

Dr Al-Aly said: “Given the colossal scale of the pandemic, meeting these challenges requires urgent and coordinated – but, so far, absent – global, national and regional response strategies.”

However, an increased risk of a seizure or anxiety is not the only risk faced by those who test positive for COVID-19. Another study, conducted by Case Western Reserve University, has found that young people could face an increased risk of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys cells that produce insulin; according to the study published in the JAMA Network Open journal, the rise is significant.

How significant?

The authors estimate the risk of type 1 diabetes rises by around 72 percent, an estimate reached after analysis of more than 571,000 patients.

“Families with high risk of type 1 diabetes in their children should be especially alert for symptoms of diabetes following COVID, and paediatricians should be alert for an influx of new cases of type 1 diabetes, especially since the Omicron variant of COVID spreads so rapidly among children.

Professor Pamela Davis said of the research: “Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease. It occurs mostly because the body’s immune defences attack the cells that produce insulin, thereby stopping insulin production and causing the disease. COVID has been suggested to increase autoimmune responses, and our present finding reinforces that suggestion.

Davis added: “We may see a substantial increase in this disease in the coming months to years. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong challenge for those who have it, and increased incidence represents substantial numbers of children afflicted.”

While the scientists say it is unclear whether COVID-19 increases the risk of type 1 diabetes, it nevertheless adds to research suggesting the impact of the virus is far reaching.

Study co-author Professor Rong Xu added: “We are also investigating possible changes in development of type 2 diabetes in children following SARS-CoV2 infection.”

In the UK diabetes is becoming an increasingly common condition, at the moment around five million people live with a form of diabetes.

Of those affected, 90 percent of patients live with type 2 while the other 10 percent live with type 1.

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