COVID-19 infection can lead to delirium and brain fog sequelae. (Schematic / Getty Image)
Scientists at King’s College London have found that the immune response to the virus increases neuronal death and has a “profound” effect on the hippocampus region of the brain, responsible for learning and memory influences.
These are preliminary findings, but they claim that the COVID-19 virus did not directly infect patients’ brains and could still induce neurological problems.
This process is thought to underlie delirium in COVID-19 patients and could also be a factor in brain fog or other lengthy Covid symptoms.
Delirium is a state of extreme confusion that leaves patients without knowing who they are or where they are。
Study leader Carmine Pariante, a professor at King’s College London, said: “These neurological symptoms are of great concern to patients and their families and we hope our research will help identify the most appropriate treatments to reduce or prevent these. symptoms”.
The researchers analyzed blood samples from 36 patients admitted to Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London during the first wave of the outbreak and found levels of IL-6 protein higher than normal in their bodies more than 15 times. This protein is released by immune cells to call up other immune cells. In infected patients with delirium, the IL-6 protein was found to be significantly increased, which was up to 6 times that of other infected patients. Almost one third of hospitalized patients infected with the virus developed symptoms of delirium, and the percentage of seriously ill patients reached two thirds.
The scientists exposed the neuronal cells grown in the laboratory to the patient’s blood to further study how high levels of IL-6 affect neurons in the hippocampus. They found that the blood of patients with delirium increases normal neuronal death rates and reduces the production of new brain cells, causing damage that can lead to delirium.
Blocking these proteins protects brain cells from damage, the scientists report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Janus kinase inhibitors, a drug already used to moderate the dangerous immune response to COVID-19, have the potential to combat delirium and its ripple effects, the study suggests.
(Editor in chief: Zhuang Yanyu)
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