In a new study, researchers found that delirium accompanied by a fever could be an early symptom of COVID-19.
The finding highlights the fact that some patients also develop delirium in addition to more well-known symptoms.
The researchers suggest that the manifestation of this state of confusion, when accompanied by high fever, should be considered an early marker of the disease, particularly in the case of elderly patients.
The research was conducted by a team at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).
Delirium is a state of confusion in which the person feels out of touch with reality as if they are dreaming.
In the study, the team reviewed scientific work published on the effects of COVID-19 in relation to the central nervous system, i.e. the brain.
They found that there is growing evidence that the coronavirus also affects the central nervous system and produces neurocognitive alterations such as headaches and delirium, as well as psychotic episodes.
The main hypotheses that explain how the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 affects the brain point to three possible causes: hypoxia or neuronal oxygen deficiency, inflammation of brain tissue due to cytokine storm, and the fact that the virus has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to directly invade the brain.
The team stressed that any one of these three factors has the potential to result in delirium and explained that evidence of hypoxia-related brain damage has been observed in autopsies carried out on patients who have died from the infection and that it has been possible to isolate the virus from the cerebral tissue.
According to the researchers, delirium, cognitive deficits and behavioral anomalies are most likely to be the result of systemic inflammation of the brain and a state of hypoxia.
Hypoxia may also cause the neuronal tissue to become inflamed in areas such as the hippocampus, which are linked to the cognitive dysfunctions and behavioral alterations presented by patients suffering delirium.
One author of the study is UOC researcher Javier Correa.
The study is published in Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapy.
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