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Study confirms ongoing brain inflammation is associated with long Covid

Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus

Most recently, research utilising advanced brain scanning technology has uncovered that long Covid patients are in fact suffering from elevated inflammation.

Dr Jeffrey Meyer said: “We already knew that there is brain inflammation in people who died in the midst of a severe, active COVID-19 infection.

“What’s new about this study is that it shows that inflammation is hanging around for a long time in the brains of people with long Covid.”

This seemed true “even after only mild to moderate symptoms of active COVID-19” infection.

The head of the neuroimaging programme in mood and anxiety at the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute elaborated.

“Inflammation in the brain was suspected of being the critical step in causing neurological and psychiatric symptoms of long Covid,” said Dr Meyer.

“So confirming this is vital to develop treatments for people experiencing symptoms.”

More than 200 million people globally might experience lingering neurological symptoms from a Covid infection, including memory impairment and depression.

For the research, 20 participants underwent brain scanning with specialised PET imaging designed to detect the presence of TSPO protein.

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The TPSO protein is a brain marker for inflammation, the researchers pointed out.

All of the participants documented an acute episode of Covid after which they reported symptoms of depression that continued for months.

Most participants also experienced a variety of long Covid symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog.

Dr Meyer mentioned another “noteworthy” observation that was “the regions of the brain that had the most inflammation are the ones involved in the capacity to enjoy things, motivational energy and the ability to think and move quickly”.

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He added: “These were often the symptoms of greatest concern among the people with long COVID who took part in the study.”

Dr Meyer hopes that anti-inflammatory medication could reduce the symptoms experienced by those who have long Covid.

“Since inflammation can be in response to injury, it might also give us insight into mechanisms of brain injury in neurodegenerative diseases.”

The research study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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  • Posted on June 7, 2023