Even mild cases of COVID-19 could trigger serious brain disorders, new research suggests.
Neurologists in the UK published the findings today based on assessments of 43 patients with COVID-related neurological problems.
The patients’ complications included stroke, nerve damage, delirium/psychosis, brain inflammation and necrosis.
The researchers said the high incidence of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord) was “striking.”
They said that complication was not related to the severity of the COVID-19 case.
Joint senior author Dr Michael Zandi said: "We identified a higher than expected number of people with neurological conditions such as brain inflammation, which did not always correlate with the severity of respiratory symptoms.
"We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had COVID-19. Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic—perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic—remains to be seen."
The researchers also acknowledged that it can be “challenging” to investigate and manage COVID-19-related neurological diseases.
Author Dr Ross Paterson added: "Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause.
"Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes. People recovering from the virus should seek professional health advice if they experience neurological symptoms.”