icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
12 Feb, 2021 11:54

Scientists identify potential culprit behind post-Covid-19 ‘brain fog’

Scientists identify potential culprit behind post-Covid-19 ‘brain fog’

Recovering Covid patients across the world have reported numerous lingering neurological symptoms, including fatigue, memory loss, and confusion, nicknamed ‘brain fog’ or ‘Covid brain’. Scientists may now have found the culprit.

“We were initially approached by our colleagues in critical-care medicine, who had observed severe delirium in many patients who were hospitalised with Covid-19,” says neuro-oncologist Jessica Wilcox, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in New York.

Her team’s initial investigations eventually snowballed into a multidisciplinary collaboration between neurology, critical care, microbiology, and neuroradiology specialists to uncover the root cause of this ‘brain fog’.

The researchers examined the cerebrospinal fluid of 18 cancer patients experiencing some form of neurological impairment after contracting Covid-19.

Also on rt.com Scientists identify 8 specific genetic variants linked with severe Covid-19 infection in possible life-saving breakthrough

Some degree of ongoing viral infection was initially suspected but discounted after microbiological analysis revealed the patients had indeed recovered from the disease and no longer had the virus in their spinal fluid. 

What they did find in the fluid, however, may provide insight into some of the more debilitating symptoms of so-called ‘long Covid’. 

“We found that these patients had persistent inflammation and high levels of cytokines in their cerebrospinal fluid, which explained the symptoms they were having,” says the co-first author of the study, Jan Remsik.

Also on rt.com Researchers ‘find no sign’ that patients on immunosuppressive drugs at higher risk from severe Covid-19 — Johns Hopkins

Cytokines are messenger proteins in the immune system. They can be triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and whipped up into a frenzy known as a ‘cytokine storm’ of potentially fatal excessive inflammation. Cytokine storms have been responsible for the more severe cases of Covid-19 witnessed in ICUs across the globe. 

A similar phenomenon has been witnessed in patients undergoing certain kinds of immunotherapy treatments, such as for cancer, with the suspicion being that the cytokines somehow make their way to the brain, causing a slew of neurological symptoms similar to those found in ‘Covid brain’.

While further study is needed, the initial research suggests that additional treatment with anti-inflammatory medications may alleviate ‘brain fog’ in post-Covid patients. The suggestion is that the nervous and immune systems may be more intertwined than had previously been thought.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!