COVID-19, the disease that a SARS-CoV-2 infection causes, often brings on mild upper respiratory symptoms. However, some individuals may experience severe illness requiring hospitalization. This can occur due to pneumonia and lung damage causing respiratory failure.
In addition, neurological manifestations commonly occur in people hospitalized with COVID-19. Neurological disorders may include encephalopathy, seizures, stroke, encephalitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine conducted a study that investigated whether people with COVID-19 experiencing new-onset neurological complications during hospitalization had elevated blood markers indicating neurological damage.
The investigators published study results in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, M.D., a co-author of the study, professor of neurology, pathology, and psychiatry, and director of both the NYU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Center for Cognitive Neurology, spoke about the study in an MNT interview.
He explained: “It’s clear that the [SARS-CoV-2] virus has a propensity for inducing vascular damage, targeting in the endothelial cells, and causing disruption of the blood-brain barrier, as well as inducing generalized neuroinflammation. Cytokines like interleukin 6 and interleukin 1 are much elevated in [individuals with COVID-19], and these are cytokines that drive neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Cytokines are proteins that help the body’s cells to communicate.
Dr. Wisniewski added, “In our study, we became interested in looking at these types of biomarkers, [since these biomarkers] are what we follow in our Alzheimer’s disease research center for looking at the progression of Alzheimer’s-related pathology and other neurodegenerative disorders.”