Can a Covid infection really age our brains by 20 years?

According to a study, patients hospitalized for a severe form of Covid-19 can have serious long-term cognitive consequences. We explain it to you.

dr Anne Sikorav

written on updated

Can a Covid infection really age our brains by 20 years?
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“Brain fog”, memory problems, difficulty thinking… You may have heard that Covid can cause persistent cognitive problems after an acute infection. But what are the real long-term effects of the coronavirus on the brain?

To answer that question, scientists from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London studied 46 patients hospitalized with severe Covid. Their study was published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, here are their findings.

An aged brain

The researchers’ findings are without appeal. A serious covid cause”cognitive loss similar to that between the ages of 50 and 70 and“corresponds to the loss of ten IQ points”according to a statement linked to the study.

The infected patients were so”less accurate and with slower response times“as uninfected patients, the scientists explain. The extent of the symptoms depended on the severity of the coronavirus infection.

Another important point: these cognitive disorders persist on average more than six months after the acute infection, the authors of the study specify.

We have followed some patients up to ten months after their acute infection, so we have seen a very slow improvement. (…) At least that’s a step in the right direction, but it’s very possible that some of these people will never fully recover.‘ adds Professor David Menon, co-author of the study, in a press release.

Symptoms even with mild Covid

People who have had severe Covid illness are not the only ones at risk of cognitive consequences. In fact, patients with mild Covid will not be spared. They are also at risk for longer-term cognitive impairment, other studies suggest.

According to data from the United Kingdom, one in seven people complains of cognitive impairment three months after a positive Covid test.

In addition, the brains of infected patients could also be directly affected. A study has shown that even a mild Covid has a “reduction” of the brain, more precisely at the level of the cerebral areas linked to the perception of smells.

How can the virus get into the brain?

The mechanisms responsible for this are still poorly understood.

It is believed that this could be a result of the inflammation caused by the infection. Another hypothesis would be direct viral infection of brain cells. Finally, hypoxia (the low level of oxygen in the blood) could also play a role.

Whatever the mechanism responsible for this, the risk of persistent cognitive problems after an acute coronavirus infection should not be overlooked. If you are affected by these persistent symptoms, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor.

Also read: Occlusions of the retinal vessels: what is this potential complication of Covid?

Covid long: these patients who do not heal! —
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