Alzheimer’s Biomarkers Present in Some COVID-19 Patients, Research Suggests

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by Ray Burow |

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The U.S. gave a collective sigh of relief a few months ago with the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, but it was apparently premature. Thankfully, we’re not reeling as we were when the virus first smacked us in the face, but reports of rising cases of variants have some retreating to precautions that were recently set aside.

Delta variant prompts return to precautions

In some parts of the country, mask mandates have been reinstated, and fingers are crossed that Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, is correct in predicting that we won’t lock down because of the delta variant. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19.

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Alzheimer’s researchers and health professionals discussed the persistent questions surrounding COVID-19 at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) held in Denver, Colorado. A great deal of information regarding COVID-19 symptoms has circulated since the beginning of the pandemic.

Most of those symptoms made sense to us. Fever, chills, and muscle and body aches are symptoms that normally accompany a virus. However, the loss of taste or smell is an odd symptom — one that hasn’t been readily associated with viruses until now.

COVID-19 affects brain function

At this year’s AAIC, scientific leaders discussed the loss of smell or taste by some patients with COVID-19. It is a neuropsychiatric symptom, as is brain fog, and is defined as a cognitive or attention deficit.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the loss of taste or smell as one of a wide range of symptoms accompanying COVID-19. Brain fog is another.

For some people who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, the symptoms could turn out to be long-term.

In a press release from the conference, Heather M. Snyder, PhD, the Alzheimer’s Association’s vice president of medical and scientific relations, said, “These new data point to disturbing trends showing COVID-19 infections leading to lasting cognitive impairment and even Alzheimer’s symptoms. With more than 190 million cases and nearly 4 million deaths worldwide, COVID-19 has devastated the entire world. It is imperative that we continue to study what this virus is doing to our bodies and brains.”

Alzheimer’s biomarkers present in COVID-19 patients

Further research is critical, indeed, as COVID-19 has been associated with an uptick in Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in the blood. The biological markers “are indicators of injury in the brain, neuroinflammation and Alzheimer’s disease,” the AAIC press release noted.

“These findings suggest that patients who had COVID-19 may have an acceleration of Alzheimer’s-related symptoms and pathology,” said Thomas Wisniewski, MD, a professor of neurology, pathology, and psychiatry at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

Wisniewski presented at the international conference and delivered pertinent information gathered from a study of blood biomarkers in elderly hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Of the 310 people in the study, 158 were positive for the virus and had neurological symptoms.

The press release noted that, “The most common neurological symptom was confusion due to toxic-metabolic encephalopathy (TME).” This can cause changes in a person’s mental status. TME is also defined as a nontraumatic brain injury.

Wisniewski is calling for further study of the long-term effects of biomarkers on the cognition of patients who had COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccine, Alzheimer’s, and nontraumatic brain injuries

I must admit, I was initially hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination and chose to do so only because I am a primary caregiver. I didn’t want to risk an elderly person’s health. However, after researching the long-term effects on the brain and how COVID-19 might contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, I am glad I got the shot early.

Research is ongoing to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, and we don’t fully understand why a person gets it. However, we can act on what we do know and help prevent it. Even if the only reason for receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is to avoid the possibility of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I’m good with that.

Wisniewski’s study revealed that COVID-19 patients had biomarkers indicating brain injury, neuroinflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease. Personally, that’s reason enough for me to receive the vaccine.

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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