Scientists find long-term brain injury markers in people with COVID-19

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A new study, recently published in Nature, uncovers significant findings about brain injury markers in COVID-19 patients.

This research is a major output from the University of Liverpool and King’s College London-led COVID-19 Clinical Neuroscience Study (COVID-CNS), involving collaboration with the ISARIC4C consortium, The Pandemic Institute, and the NIHR BioResource.

Professor Benedict Michael, the Principal Investigator and Director of the University of Liverpool’s Infection Neuroscience Laboratory, highlighted the prevalence of neurological complications in many hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those with mild infections.

While some symptoms were mild, such as headaches and muscle aches, more severe complications like encephalitis, seizures, and stroke were also observed.

The COVID-CNS study analyzed samples from over 800 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across England and Wales, including those with new neurological conditions.

The researchers measured various markers, including brain injury markers, serum inflammatory proteins (cytokines), antibodies, and neuroglial injury proteins.

Their findings were striking: during the acute phase of COVID-19, there was a production of key inflammatory proteins and brain injury markers. However, even months after hospital discharge, there remained robust biomarker evidence of brain injury.

This was particularly notable in patients who experienced neurological dysfunction during the acute phase and continued into the recovery phase, especially in those who had suffered acute neurological complications.

The study suggests that these inflammatory markers, linked to abnormal immune responses, could be potential therapy targets for COVID-19 and other infections causing acute brain dysfunction.

Professor Michael emphasized the presence of brain injury markers in the blood long after recovery from COVID-19, especially in patients with COVID-19-induced brain complications.

This indicates possible ongoing inflammation and injury in the brain, which might not be detectable by standard blood tests.

Professor Aras Kadioglu, Head of the Department of Clinical Infection, Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Liverpool, praised the study for its contribution to understanding ongoing brain injury in patients who developed neurological complications from COVID-19.

Furthermore, Professor Leonie Taams from King’s College London remarked on the cross-disciplinary nature of this research, which combined immunology, neurology, and infection research to identify biomarkers associated with COVID-19’s neurological complications.

This study sets the stage for further research into the underlying mechanisms of these complications and their long-term implications on cognitive function and recovery.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more health information, please see recent studies about COVID-19 infection and vaccination linked to heart disease, and results showing extracts from two wild plants can inhibit the COVID-19 virus.

The research findings can be found in Nature Communications.

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