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Author Topic: WARNING: Brain damage caused by Covid-19 even in light cases  (Read 13 times)

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WARNING: Brain damage caused by Covid-19 even in light cases
« on: October 12, 2021, 03:22:24 AM »

Covid-19 ist the worst danger ever to humans. So I copy the article for the sake of saving lives.

Congrats for the San Francisco Chronicle to pick up this topi. THANK YOU!

Go and do read the article in the original San Francisco Cronicle!

Here's what Bay Area doctors say about how COVID affects the brain
Photo of Nanette Asimov
Nanette Asimov
Oct. 10, 2021
Updated: Oct. 10, 2021 8:43 a.m.
Health care administrator Cliff Morrison was sick with COVID-19 in March 2020 and now struggles with neurological issues he attributes to having had the virus. Extreme fatigue, dizziness and disorientation force him to take naps while at work in order to get through the day.
Health care administrator Cliff Morrison was sick with COVID-19 in March 2020 and now struggles with neurological issues he attributes to having had the virus. Extreme fatigue, dizziness and disorientation force him to take naps while at work in order to get through the day.

Brontë Wittpenn/The Chronicle

While driving recently, Cliff Morrison suddenly found himself lost in a forest.

He pulled over, looked around and realized he was actually on a tree-lined street half a mile from his home in the Oakland hills, heading to the post office.

Morrison, 70, did not have dementia. He had COVID-19.

Since his diagnosis in April 2020, Morrison, a health care administrator, has experienced a mysterious and mercifully brief loss of orientation four or five times, most recently around Labor Day, and always near home. It no longer frightens the bejeezus out of him. Now, he’s just curious.

So are his doctors.

“There are viruses that can cause cognitive issues in otherwise healthy people” — and COVID is clearly one of them, said Dr. Joanna Hellmuth, a UCSF neurologist.

Dr. Joanna Hellmuth, a neurologist, is principal investigator at UCSF's Coronavirus Neurocognitive Study.
Dr. Joanna Hellmuth, a neurologist, is principal investigator at UCSF’s Coronavirus Neurocognitive Study.

UCSF / Barbara Ries
A new study from Oxford University offers the worrisome suggestion that the coronavirus not only can shrink the brain, but also reduce “gray matter thickness,” damage tissue in areas associated with the sense of smell, and cause more than 60 other long-term changes to that essential organ.

The study, published Aug. 18, has not yet been peer reviewed. But it’s attracting attention because the researchers were able to compare hundreds of brain scans of the same people before and after COVID hit. Of the 785 participants, 401 tested positive for the coronavirus before their second scan, giving researchers a unique opportunity to see how each brain may have changed as a result.

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Strikingly, the changes occurred whether people had been hospitalized for COVID or had had only a mild case.

“In the general population, it is normal to see some change in gray matter volume or thickness over time as people age, but the changes were larger than normal in those who had been infected with COVID-19,” Jessica Bernard, a cognitive neuroscientist at Texas A&M who was not involved with the study, wrote in an essay reprinted last month in Scientific American.

Bernard noted that the affected brain regions were “all linked to the olfactory bulb,” which sends signals from the nose to the brain. It also connects to the temporal lobe, home of the hippocampus — which is key to memory and cognition.

She and other scientists declined to draw conclusions from the preliminary study. But Bernard said other research has pointed to a link between a reduced sense of smell and Alzheimer’s disease — making the new study that much more intriguing.

Questions still outnumber answers. Researchers wonder if the damage is from the disease spreading elsewhere in the body or from the virus entering the brain, perhaps through the nose? From neuro-inflammation caused by the infection — or something else? And can it be reversed?

From 15% to 36% of COVID survivors report memory loss, cognitive deficits or trouble concentrating, according to a Stanford University analysis of 13 studies, published in May in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open publication.

Other viruses use an array of techniques to wreak havoc on the brain. Rabies and polio enter brain cells and attack from within, said UCSF neurologist Dr. Samuel Pleasure. Shingles and herpes simplex are more devious, hibernating like a bear until severe stress wakes them up, often years later.

Dr. Sam Pleasure is a UCSF neurologist studying how COVID-19 affects the brain.
Dr. Sam Pleasure is a UCSF neurologist studying how COVID-19 affects the brain.

Marco Sanchez/UCSF
HIV uses yet another ruthless approach — better understood as people lived longer with that disease — in which the virus enters the brain and lingers, torturing its victim slowly over time.

“HIV gets in the brain and stays in,” Hellmuth said. “But it’s very hard to find COVID in the brain.”

So what’s going on?

A 30-year-old Connecticut man provides one clue.

His story, co-written by Pleasure of UCSF, was posted in August. Within days of getting a fever and a COVID diagnosis, the man came to believe a religious rapture was imminent and thought he was speaking with dead relatives. He kicked down a door. He shoved his mother. He was hospitalized, but discharged after doctors found no reason for his sudden psychosis. He was back in less than two weeks, his face expressionless and his speech and thinking dulled.

A blood test identified high levels of two proteins, ferritin and D-dimer, hinting at a culprit: systemic inflammation.

That led his doctors to suspect the coronavirus had triggered the inflammation, which caused an immune response that, instead of controlling the infection, “turned into a problem of its own,” Pleasure said. In this case, psychosis.

So doctors at Yale New Haven Hospital chose a treatment typically aimed at autoimmune diseases, and infused the man with intravenous immunoglobulin. Made of purified antibodies from thousands of people, it’s believed to work by swamping out abnormal antibodies.

The man’s delusions vanished. He returned to work and has remained healthy.

At UCSF, Pleasure is continuing to investigate such COVID-induced autoimmunity. Beyond psychosis, the domino effect of COVID, inflammation and autoimmunity appears to cause other neurologic complications — including encephalopathy (changes in brain function), encephalitis (brain inflammation), and Guillain-Barré syndrome (muscle weakness from peripheral nerve inflammation).

Understanding more about COVID and autoimmunity may offer new treatment options, Pleasure said.

Going mad isn’t a typical post-COVID symptom. But it appears to be caused by inflammation and autoimmunity, so Pleasure and other experts are asking whether the brain fog so many experience after COVID is a “weaker version of the same thing.” However, he said, “we don’t have the answer yet.”

For months after he got COVID, Morrison often had to hold on to walls while walking because he felt like he was moving sideways. He suffered headaches, forgetfulness, dizziness and mood swings that had him lashing out verbally one minute and crying the next.

Some “neurological stuff” lingers, he said of the symptoms that arrived with COVID. Now he keeps a sofa for restorative catnaps in his Castro Valley office and participates in UCSF’s Coronavirus Neurocognitive Study, where Hellmuth is principal investigator.

While there’s a lot doctors don’t know, Hellmuth said Morrison’s confusion while driving isn’t a total mystery. “After COVID, many people aren't able to handle a high burden of information coming in all at once,” as driving requires.

Hellmuth is working with the National Institutes of Health to develop a large study of post-COVID symptoms called Recover.

Recovery is what Morrison hopes for.

“I’ve come right out and asked if I and people like myself will ever fully recover,” he said. “But they won’t go that far. They say it’s still too early to tell.”

Nanette Asimov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @NanetteAsimov

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Nanette Asimov
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Nanette covers California's public universities - the University of California and California State University - as well as community colleges and private universities. She's written about sexual misconduct at UC and Stanford, the precarious state of accreditation at City College of San Francisco, and what happens when the UC Berkeley student government discovers a gay rights opponent in its midst. She has exposed a private art college where students rack up massive levels of debt (one student's topped $400k), and covered audits peering into UC finances, education lawsuits and countless student protests.

But writing about higher education also means getting a look at the brainy creations of students and faculty: Robotic suits that help paralyzed people walk. Online collections of folk songs going back hundreds of years. And innovations touching on everything from virtual reality to baseball.

Nanette is also covering the COVID-19 pandemic and served as health editor during the first six months of the crisis, which quickly ended her brief tenure as interim investigations editor.

Previously, Nanette covered K-12 education. Her stories led to changes in charter school laws, prompted a ban on Scientology in California public schools, and exposed cheating and censorship in testing.

A past president of the Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California chapter, Nanette has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in sociology from Queens College. She speaks English and Spanish.

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