COVID-19 may cause psychosis, Stroke
A new research has revealed that a wide range of serious psychiatric and neurological complications, including stroke, psychosis, and a dementia-like syndrome is tied to the coronavirus disease.
The research reveals how aggressively COVID-19 can attack beyond the lungs, and the risk the disease can pose to younger adults.
The research which was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Lancet Psychiatry, looked at 125 hospitalised patients with COVID-19 who also had some sort of neuropsychiatric complication.
According to the research, 57 patients have had an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot in the brain.
The second most common issue, affecting 39 of them was an altered mental state that included encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain that can cause several symptoms, from confusion to mobility problems, and encephalopathy – a general term for a disease that alters brain function.
Ten of the patients were said to be newly diagnosed with psychosis, while six had cognitive issues akin to dementia.
A neurologist specializing in infectious diseases and senior author, Benedict Michael of the University of Liverpool, said:
“What was particularly interesting was that this spanned the neurological spectrum.”
The people involved in the research ranged from those in their 20s to 90s, and the researchers said because they focused on hospitalised patients, the complications detailed likely represent the most serious ones.
While the strokes were more common among older patients, the researchers found that about half of those who experienced altered mental status were younger than 60.
The researchers pointed out that while smaller studies and case reports from China and other European countries had also raised the connection between COVID-19 and neuropsychiatric complications, but for the new study, the researchers set out to get a full picture of the range of those complications.
To amass as broad a data set as possible, they built a reporting network across the United Kingdom that enlisted specialists in stroke, neurology, psychiatry, and critical care.
“Everybody is focused on mortality, which they should, and respiratory problems, which is the main cause of death,” said Mark George, a psychiatrist and neurologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, who was not involved with the study.
He, however, affirmed that “the virus certainly does have brain effects.”
As the pandemic continues to spread around the globe, clinicians have found themselves treating complications in just about every bodily system — including diabetes, kidney damage and even lesions on people’s toes.
The publication noted that with complications in the brain, experts are still trying to figure out exactly how rare they are.
It’s unclear exactly what’s causing each neuropsychiatric issue: the viral infection itself; the body’s immune response, which is responsible for other, sometimes fatal complications following infections; or a combination of the two, it further stated.
The researchers noted that altered mental status is not uncommon in people admitted to the hospital with severe infections generally, especially those who require intensive care.
“This is a direct effect, in some people, of the virus going into brains,” George said.
It’s long been known that viral infections can cause lasting neurological complications, as the 1918 flu pandemic was similarly associated with encephalitis in some patients.
But Michael, the new study’s senior author, said the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for scientists to discover how a virus can cause those complications, given how widespread the coronavirus is and the new technology researchers have.
“What remains unknown is how long these complications — or sequelae, in science-speak — may last for people with COVID-19,” he said, adding that the research team was working to follow the patients in the study.
“Ask me in six months and then we will have some degree of a handle on it,” Michael said.