Psychiatric and neurological risk still high after 2 years

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Two years after initial infection with SARS-CoV-2, people continue to face high risk for psychiatric and neurocognitive disorders. Image credit: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 virus and the resulting illness of COVID-19 cause varied short-term symptoms. Researchers are still working to understand and assess the long-term impact of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
  • Data from a new study examines the neurological and psychiatric disorders that can develop in people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • The study results revealed that even after 2 years, people infected with SARS-CoV-2 had an increased risk of several neurological and psychiatric disorders, including cognitive deficits, dementia and seizures.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is relatively new. There are many experts who still do not understand the long term impact of infection with this virus.

A recent study published in The Lancet Psychiatry sought to examine some long-term psychiatric and neurological problems related to SARS-CoV-2 in relation to the risks of other respiratory infections.

The study found no long-term risk for certain disorders such as anxiety or depression in people with COVID-19. However, risks for other conditions, such as dementia and seizures, may still be present 2 years after initial infection.

These findings underscore the need for further research into the long-term impact of COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. It can cause respiratory symptoms, but people can experience a wide variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

For example, people with the SARS-CoV-2 virus may experience fever, chills, cough, congestion, or shortness of breath.

Since its appearance, SARS-CoV-2 has mutated to produce a number of variationsincluding some variants designated as “concerning”, which vary in their transmissibility and the symptoms people experience when infected.

Currently, there are many unknowns about the long-term impact of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Experts want to understand how SARS-CoV-2 infections increase the risk of other health problems.

One area of ​​interest is the impact of the virus on the risk of neurological and psychiatric problems.

Researchers used data collected in 2-year retrospective cohort studies from the TriNetX electronic health record network to study the impact of the neurological and psychiatric impact of SARS-CoV-2 infections .

The majority of the data came from the United States, but the study also included data from a number of other countries.

The researchers first identified nearly 1.2 million patients who had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 between January 20, 2020 and April 13, 2022, and matched them with others who had the same status. vaccine, age, demographic and risk factors, who had not had COVID-19 but had other respiratory infections.

Next, the authors analyzed the participants’ risk for 14 psychiatric and neurological diagnoses and compared the risk of these disorders to the control cohort. They also looked at how these risks differed before and after waves of infection dominated by Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants, respectively.

While anxiety disorder symptoms increased in people with active SARS-CoV-2 infection, the risk of anxiety and depression declined to control group levels within months.

The researchers also found that children were not at risk for mood disorders in the same way as adults. Children were at risk for other problems, such as cognitive impairment, insomnia and seizures after the first 6 months after infection.

In adults, there was an increased risk of brain fog, dementia, psychotic disorders, and epilepsy or seizures at the end of the 2-year follow-up.

The researchers further found that participants infected with the Delta variant had an increased risk of ischemic stroke, cognitive impairment, insomnia, anxiety disorders, and epilepsy or seizures compared to participants infected with the Alpha variant. .

Finally, while the death rate decreased after the emergence of the Omicron variant, the virus still carried about the same risks of psychiatric or neurological problems compared to the Delta variant.

Study author Professor Paul Harrison noted that the results of the mixed data Medical News Today:

“It is good news that the overdiagnosis of depression and anxiety after COVID-19 is short-lived and not seen in children. However, it is concerning that some other disorders, such than dementia and seizures, continue to be more likely to be diagnosed after COVID-19, even 2 years later It also appears that Omicron, although less severe in acute illness, is followed by comparable rates of these diagnoses.

The study provided more comprehensive data on some of the long-term impacts of COVID-19. However, the study also had several limitations, including the following:

  • data focused primarily on symptomatic cases, as asymptomatic cases were less likely to be recorded in electronic health records
  • the researchers did not analyze the mediation of the results according to the severity of the disease
  • only some participants contributed full 2-year follow-up data, indicating the need for longer-term studies
  • there was a risk for people who contracted a specific variant to end up in another group of variants for analysis
  • vaccination status was likely under-reported in some of the data
  • the researchers grouped adolescents and children together in the analysis, so more research is needed regarding the long-term impacts on these age groups
  • the incidence of mortality was probably underestimated
  • it is unclear how severe each disorder was after diagnosis or whether there were differences in severity based on SARS-CoV-2 infection or other respiratory infections.

Overall, the study points to the need for more research regarding the long-term impact of COVID-19.

Dr. Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the study, noted the following for DTM:

“Going forward, I think we need more studies like the one described here correlating COVID-19 therapies with long-term outcomes to see if some of our interventions are more or less likely to affect the incidence of these neuropsychiatric disorders. If there is a silver lining to these catastrophic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we may learn more about the mechanistic causes of these neuropsychiatric disorders, which could eventually lead to prevention strategies. and effective treatment.

Professor Harrison noted that this data could help healthcare professionals prepare for the future.

“The findings shed new light on the longer-term mental and brain health consequences for people after COVID-19 infection,” Professor Harrison explained.

“The findings have implications for patients and health services and underscore the need for further research to understand why this happens after COVID-19, and what can be done to prevent these disorders from occurring, or deal with when they occur,” he added.

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