A new study found that COVID-19 increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older people within a year of infection. The chance can go as high as 50% up to 80% compared to those who were not infected. This study was conducted on 6 million patients aged 65 and older.Wang, L., Davis, P. B., Volkow, N. D., Berger, N. A., Kaelber, D. C., & Xu, R. (2022). Association of COVID-19 with New-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD, 89(2), 411–414. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-22071
According to the report, patients who are 65 years and older who contracted COVID-19 were more prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease. This can happen within a year after their COVID diagnosis. Researchers said that the highest risk was observed in women who are 85 years and older.
The findings of the study demonstrated a nearly doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease for older adults over a one-year period after being diagnosed with COVID. However, it is still unclear whether COVID-19 triggers a new development of the said disease or accelerates the onset of its symptoms.
Statement from The Researchers
The study’s co-author Pamela Davis is a distinguished research professor at The Arline H. and Curtis F. Gavin in Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. She stated that the factors considered in the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been poorly understood. Nevertheless, there are two factors they considered important for this study which are prior infections, such as COVID-19, and inflammation.
Davis also added that they wanted to test whether COVID could lead to increased diagnosis in the future even in short term. This is due to the SARS-CoV2 infection being associated with abnormalities in the central nervous system like inflammation.
How The Study Was Conducted
In this study, the researchers examined anonymous health records of 6.2 million patients in the United States aged 65 and older. These are patients who had records of receiving medical treatment between February 2020 and May 2021 and were never diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease beforehand.
The population of patients is divided into two groups with one group who got infected with COVID-19 during the one-year period and another group with no documented diagnosis of the viral infection. There were more than 400,000 people included in the group who got COVID and those without are around 5.8 million.
Davis mentioned that with the increase in new diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease, there will likely be more patients dealing with the disease with no cure. This can result in their long-term care resources being strained further.
Over the years, health experts had helped to significantly reduce general risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Davis also emphasized the importance of continuous monitoring of how COVID-19 can have an impact on future disability. She said that there are still long-term consequences of COVID emerging along with the fact that many people in the U.S. contracted the infection.
Rong Xu, co-author, professor of Biomedical Informatics at the School of Medicine, and director of the Center for AI in Drug Discovery, stated that their research team will continue studying the effects of COVID-19 on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
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