‘Quiet’ influx of neurological results might be on its way due to COVID-19

‘Quiet’ influx of neurological results might be on its way due to COVID-19


  • Post By : Kumar Jeetendra

  • Source: IOS Press

  • Date: 23 Sep,2020

Is the world ready a tide of neurological consequences which might be on its way as a result of COVID-19? A group of neuroscientists and clinicians are examining the potential link between COVID-19 and increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, and measures to get ahead of the curve.

In a review paper published today, researchers put spotlight on the possible long-term neurological consequences of COVID-19, dubbing it the’silent wave’. They’re calling for urgent action to be taken to have available more accurate diagnostic tools to identify neurodegeneration early on and a long term monitoring approach for people that have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The researchers report that neurological symptoms in people infected with the virus have ranged from acute, such as brain hypoxia (lack of oxygen), to more common symptoms such as loss of smell.

“Although scientists are still learning how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to invade the brain and central nervous system, the fact that it’s getting in there is clear. Our best understanding is that the virus can cause insult to brain cells, with potential for neurodegeneration to follow on from there.”-Kevin Barnham, Professor, Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health

“We found that loss of smell or reduced smell was on average reported in three out of four people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While on the surface this symptom can seem as little cause for concern, it really tells us a lot about what’s happening on the inside which is that there’s acute inflammation in the olfactory system responsible for odor,” explained Florey researcher Leah Beauchamp.

Inflammation is known to play a major role in the pathogenesis of neurogenerative disease and has been particularly well studied in Parkinson’s. Further research into these ailments may prove crucial for future impacts of SARS-CoV-2.

“We believe that reduction of smell presents a new way forward in detecting someone’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease early. Equipped with the knowledge that loss of smell presents in approximately 90% of people in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and a decade ahead of motor symptoms, we believe we are on the right path,” added Ms Beauchamp.

Clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease currently relies on demonstration of motor dysfunction, but research shows that by now 50-70% of dopamine cell loss in the brain has already occurred.

“By waiting until this stage of Parkinson’s disease to diagnose and cure, you’ve already missed the window for neuroprotective therapies to have their intended effect. We’re referring to an insidious disease affecting 80,000 individuals in Australia, which is set to double by 2040 before even considering the possible consequences of COVID, and we currently don’t have any available disease-modifying therapies,” said Professor Barnham.

The researchers hope to set up an easy, cost-effective screening protocol aiming to identify people in the community at risk of developing Parkinson’s, or who are in early stages of the disease, at a time when treatments have the best potential to reduce onset of motor dysfunction.

Moreover, the group have developed two neuroprotective therapies currently under investigation and have identified a cohort of subjects who are ideally suited to study the remedies. Through their research they gained new evidence that people with REM sleep behavior disorder have a higher predisposition to go on to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a significant economic burden costing the Australian economy in excess of $10 billion a year.

“We have to alter community believing that Parkinson’s not a disease of older age. As we’ve been hearing time and time again, the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate – and neither does Parkinson’s,” said Professor Barnham.

“We can take insight from the neurological consequences that followed the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 at which the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease increased two to three-fold. Given that the world’s population was hit again with a viral outbreak, it’s very worrying indeed to consider the possible global growth of neurological diseases that could unfold track down.”

He added,”The world was caught off guard the first time, but it does not have to be again. We now know what has to be done. Alongside a strategized public health approach, tools for early diagnosis and better treatments are going to be key.”

Journal reference:

Beauchamp, L.C., et al. (2020) Parkinsonism as a Third Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic?. Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. doi.org/10.3233/JPD-202211.

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