Öne of three survivors of COVID-19, more commonly referred to as COVID-19 long distance drivers, suffered from a neurological or psychiatric disability Six months after infection, a recent groundbreaking study of more than 200,000 post-COVID-19 patients showed.
The researchers studied 236,379 UK patients diagnosed with COVID-19 over a six month period and analyzed neurological and psychiatric complications during that period. They compared these people to others who had similar respiratory diseases that weren’t COVID-19.
They found a significant increase in several illnesses in the COVID-19 group, including memory loss, nervous disorders, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and insomnia. In addition, symptoms occurred in all age groups and in patients who were asymptomatic, quarantined at home, and hospitalized.
The results of this study speak for the severity of the long-term consequences of a COVID-19 infection. Numerous reports of brain fog, post-traumatic stress disorder, heart, lung and gastrointestinal diseases have puzzled the media and scientists in the last 12 months and asked the question: What effects does COVID-19 have on the body long after the acute symptoms have subsided?
I’m an assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery, and I wonder what we’ve learned from our experience with other viruses. One thing stands out in particular: the consequences of COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come.
Past virus outbreaks, such as the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS epidemic, have provided examples of the challenges to be expected with COVID-19. And the long-term effects of other viral infections help to gain insight.
Several other viruses, including a vast majority of those that cause common upper and lower respiratory infections, have been shown to cause chronic symptoms such as anxiety, depression, memory problems, and fatigue. Experts believe these symptoms are likely due to long-term effects on the immune system. Viruses trick the body into creating a sustained inflammatory response that is resistant to treatment.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is one such disease. Researchers believe this condition is due to continued activation of the immune system long after the original infection has cleared.
Unlike other viral infections, the COVID-19 survivors in the study reported persistent symptoms that lasted for more than six months with no significant improvement over time. The abundance of psychiatric symptoms was also remarkable, and likely due to both infection and pandemic experiences.
These results lead researchers to suspect multiple mechanisms following acute COVID-19 infection that can lead to long-term COVID-19. Given the known historical context of chronic symptoms following other viruses, doctors and researchers can look to the future of COVID-19, with the potential to develop therapies to alleviate persistent symptoms in patients.
When does COVID-19 really end?
COVID-19 is known today as a disease that affects all organ systems, including the brain, lungs, heart, kidneys and intestines.
There are several theories about the cause of chronic, persistent symptoms. The hypotheses include direct organ damage by the virus, the continuous activation of the immune system after acute infection and persistent virus particles that find a safe place in the body.
To date, autopsy studies have not confirmed the presence or abundance of COVID-19 particles in the brain, making immune theories the most likely cause of brain dysfunction.
Some recovered COVID-19 patients report significant improvement or resolution of long symptoms after being vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Others report improvement after brief steroids treatment. The most plausible explanation for the direct effects of long-term COVID-19 on the brain is its body-wide connections and the fact that COVID-19 is a multi-organ disease.
These results could suggest a direct immune-related cause of COVID-19, although there are still no real answers to define the true cause and duration of the disease.
The world after COVID-19
In February, the National Institutes of Health announced a new initiative to investigate long-term COVID-19, now collectively defined as the post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2. The NIH created a $ 1.15 billion fund to study this new disease. The goals of the study include the cause of long-term symptoms, the number of people affected by the disease, and the vulnerabilities that lead to long-term COVID-19 illness.
In my view, public health officials should continue to be open and transparent when discussing the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19. Society as a whole needs the best possible information to understand its implications and solve the problem.
COVID-19 remains and remains one of the greatest socio-economic problems worldwide as we begin to see the true long-term effects of the disease. Both the science and research communities should remain diligent in the fight long after the acute infections have subsided. It seems that the chronic effects of the disease will be with us for some time to come.
Chris Robinson, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, University of Florida
This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.