COVID-19 may cause Alzheimer’s disease-like dementia

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In a new study from Cleveland Clinic, researchers found how COVID-19 can lead to Alzheimer’s disease-like dementia.

The findings showed overlap between COVID-19 and brain changes common in Alzheimer’s and may help inform risk management and treatment strategies for COVID-19-associated cognitive impairment.

Reports of neurological complications in COVID-19 patients and “long-hauler” patients whose symptoms persist after the infection clears are becoming more common.

This suggests that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) may have lasting effects on brain function. However, it is not yet well understood how the virus leads to neurological issues.

In the study, the team harnessed artificial intelligence using existing datasets of patients with Alzheimer’s and COVID-19.

They measured the proximity between SARS-CoV-2 host genes/proteins and those associated with several neurological diseases where closer proximity suggests related or shared disease pathways.

The researchers also analyzed the genetic factors that enabled SARS-COV-2 to infect brain tissues and cells.

They found little evidence that the virus targets the brain directly, but they discovered close links between the virus and genes/proteins linked to several neurological diseases, most notably Alzheimer’s, pointing to pathways by which COVID-19 could lead to AD-like dementia.

To explore this further, they examined potential links between COVID-19 and neuro-inflammation and brain microvascular injury, which are both hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

They discovered that SARS-CoV-2 infection strongly altered Alzheimer’s markers implicated in brain inflammation and that certain viral entry factors are highly expressed in cells in the blood-brain barrier.

These findings suggest that the virus may impact several genes or pathways involved in neuroinflammation and brain microvascular injury, which could lead to Alzheimer’s disease-like cognitive impairment.

The researchers also found that individuals with the allele APOE E4/E4, the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s, had decreased expression of antiviral defense genes, which could make these patients more susceptible to COVID-19.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to have paved the way for research that leads to testable and measurable biomarkers that can identify patients at the highest risk for neurological complications with COVID-19.

If you care about covid-19 and brain health, please read studies about two common health problems may increase risk of COVID-19 brain damage and findings of even moderate COVID-19 can cause dangerous brain diseases.

For more information about COVID-19 and brain diseases, please see recent studies about COVID-19 attacks brain, not lungs, triggering severe disease and results showing blood vessel damage and inflammation in COVID-19 patients’ brains.

The study is published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy. One author of the study is Feixiong Cheng, Ph.D.

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