New evidence has shown that coronavirus can trigger potentially fatal brain disorders, as they emerge in mildly affected or recovering patients.
Neurologists published on Wednesday details of more than 40 UK Covid-19 patients whose complications ranged from brain inflammation and delirium to nerve damage and stroke. In some cases, the neurological problem was the patient’s first and main symptom.
The cases, published in the journal Brain, revealed a rise in a life-threatening condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem). The number of cases at UCL’s Institute of Neurology has grown from one a month before the pandemic to two or three per week in April and May.
A dozen patients had inflammation of the central nervous system, 10 had brain disease with delirium or psychosis, eight had strokes and a further eight had peripheral nerve problems, mostly diagnosed as Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune reaction that attacks the nerves and causes paralysis. It is fatal in 5% of cases.
“We’re seeing things in the way Covid-19 affects the brain that we haven’t seen before with other viruses,” said Michael Zandi, a senior author on the study.
The cases add to concerns over the long-term health effects of Covid-19, which have left some patients breathless and fatigued long after they have cleared the virus, and others with numbness, weakness and memory problems.
The full range of brain disorders caused by Covid-19 may not have been picked up yet, because many patients in hospitals are too sick to examine in brain scanners or with other procedures. “What we really need now is better research to look at what’s really going on in the brain,” Zandi said.
Leave a Reply