Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus
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Brain fog is one of the most common persistent symptoms among people recovering from Covid.
The symptom has been reported in around half of people suffering from long Covid.
Examination of the cerebrospinal fluid of several long Covid patients found elevated levels of inflammatory protein and the presence of unexpected antibodies.
The researchers speculate that these “turncoat” antibodies could be attacking the body and causing long-term symptoms.
“It’s possible that the immune system, stimulated by the virus, may be functioning in an unintended pathological way,” explained senior author Dr Joanna Hellmuth.
“This would be the case even though the individuals did not have the virus in their bodies.”
The patients being examined received lumbar punctures to examine their cerebrospinal fluid, but this occurred an average of 10 months after they first reported Covid symptoms.
The researchers identified multiple risk factors for cognitive disease that seemed to increase the risk of brain fog.
These included diabetes, hypertension, a history of ADHD, anxiety, depression, a history of alcohol or stimulant abuse and learning disabilities.
The average patient with cognitive symptoms had 2.5 risk factors, and people without cognitive symptoms had an average below one.
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Hellmuth’s area of expertise is HIV associated Neurocognitive Disorder, called HAND.
The diagnosis criteria for HAND was applied in identifying cognitive symptoms in long Covid patients.
Unexpectedly, 59 percent of the patients with cognitive symptoms met the HAND criteria compared with 70 percent of the control group.
Hellmuth explained: “Comparing cognitive performance to normative references may not identify true changes, particularly in those with a high pre-Covid baseline, who may have experienced a notable drop but still fall within normal limits.
“If people tell us they have new thinking and memory issues, I think we should believe them rather than require that they meet certain severity criteria.”
Other viruses have been identified that produce cognitive symptoms.
The previous coronaviruses, SARS and MERS were reported to have these symptoms.
Other examples include hepatitis C and Epstein-Barr virus.
The brain fog associated with long Covid causes difficulties with executive functioning.
“They manifest as problems remembering recent events, coming up with names or words, staying focused, and issues with holding onto and manipulating information, as well as slowed processing speed,” said Hellmuth.
The research is part of a larger project titled the Long-term Impact of Infection with Novel Coronavirus (LIINC) study.
The goal is to collect information on how Covid impacts different bodily functions after a person has otherwise recovered.
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