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COVID-19: An increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders

The study analyzed the health records of more than half of the Danish population and, of the 919,731 people tested for COVID-19, the researchers found that the 43,375 people who tested positive were at increased risk of several neurodegenerative diseases, that is :

  • a 3.5 times higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease,
  • a 2.6 times higher risk of Parkinson’s disease,
  • a 2.7 times higher risk of ischemic stroke,
  • a 4.8 times higher risk of intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain).

While neuroinflammation may contribute to the accelerated development of these neurodegenerative disorders,

these data are not limiting on the possible long-term sequelae after COVID-19. Lead author Dr Pardis Zarifkar, a neurologist at Rigshospitalet, explains: “More than 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the precise nature and course of the effects of COVID-19 on neurological disorders remain poorly understood. Previous studies have established an association with neurological syndromes, but so far it is unclear whether COVID-19 also influences the incidence of specific neurological diseases and whether this impact differs from that of other respiratory infections.”

COVID or flu, same neurological effects?

Specifically, this is the analysis of data from inpatients and outpatients in Denmark between February 2020 and November 2021, as well as influenza patients from the corresponding pre-pandemic period. The researchers used statistical techniques to calculate the relative risk, and the results were stratified by length and type of hospitalization, age, gender and comorbidities.

  • The increased risk of most neurological diseases, however, is not found to be higher in COVID-19 positive patients than in patients diagnosed with influenza or other respiratory diseases:
  • however, COVID-19 patients have a 1.7 times higher risk of ischemic stroke compared to patients hospitalized with influenza or bacterial pneumonia over the age of 80;
  • in contrast, the incidence of other neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome and narcolepsy does not increase after COVID-19, influenza or pneumonia.
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Syntheticthe risk of neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular disorders is increased in COVID-19 positive vs negative patients, but, apart from the risk of ischemic stroke, most neurological disorders do not seem to be more frequent after COVID-19 than after flu or pneumonia.

These results make it possible to clarify for patients and clinicians the longer-term neurological effects of COVID-19 but also of other respiratory infections.

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