Scientists find big cause of brain fog in long COVID

Credit: Unsplash+

In a big breakthrough, a team of scientists from Trinity College Dublin, along with researchers from FutureNeuro, has made a discovery that could fundamentally alter our understanding of brain fog and cognitive decline experienced by some patients suffering from long COVID.

This pivotal research, published in Nature Neuroscience, delves deep into the neurological aftermath of the SARS-CoV2 virus, which has puzzled the medical community since its emergence in late 2019.

Long COVID, characterized by a wide range of symptoms persisting beyond 12 weeks of the initial infection, has been reported by up to 10% of patients infected with the virus.

Notably, nearly half of these patients report experiencing neurological symptoms such as brain fog, memory issues, and fatigue, marking a substantial challenge for ongoing public health efforts.

The Trinity College team’s research has identified a crucial factor contributing to these neurological symptoms: a disruption in the integrity of blood vessels within the brain.

This “leakiness” distinguishes patients with cognitive issues from those without, providing a tangible biomarker for brain fog associated with long COVID.

Employing advanced MRI scanning techniques, the researchers have for the first time visualized how long COVID can affect the brain’s vascular network.

This novel approach has illuminated the connection between leaky blood vessels, a hyperactive immune system, and the resultant brain fog, laying the groundwork for potential future therapies targeted at these underlying mechanisms.

Prof. Matthew Campbell, a leading figure in the study, emphasized the significance of understanding these mechanisms, as it paves the way for developing treatments specifically tailored to address the root causes of long COVID-induced cognitive decline.

This research marks a critical step forward in the battle against the lingering effects of COVID-19, offering hope to those suffering from its long-term neurological impact.

The study was conducted amidst the pandemic’s peak in 2020, recruiting patients who had endured long COVID symptoms as well as those hospitalized due to the virus.

The dedication and expertise of the medical staff and trainees involved in this challenging study have been pivotal in achieving these groundbreaking findings.

Prof. Colin Doherty highlighted the importance of this research in changing the landscape of post-viral neurological conditions, demonstrating measurable metabolic and vascular changes in the brain linked to long COVID.

This discovery not only enhances our understanding of long COVID but also suggests a broader implication for various neurological conditions potentially triggered by viral infections.

The team’s ability to link every long COVID case to a confirmed SARS-CoV2 infection, thanks to Ireland’s rigorous PCR-based diagnostic approach, has strengthened the hypothesis that viral infections could induce vascular leakage in the brain, leading to neurological symptoms.

This revelation opens new avenues for research into post-viral syndromes and their impact on neurological health.

Dr. Chris Greene, the study’s first author, expressed optimism about the future of this research area, indicating that the mechanisms uncovered could be common across different viral infections, bringing us closer to understanding the root causes of post-viral neurological dysfunction.

This discovery sets the stage for further studies aimed at deciphering the molecular events behind long COVID and similar conditions, offering a glimmer of hope for millions affected worldwide.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, death, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies that low-sodium plant-based diets may prevent COVID-19 better, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

The research findings can be found in Nature Neuroscience.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.