Blood Markers of Brain Damage Higher in COVID-19 Patients than Alzheimer’s Patients in the Short-term, Study Finds

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Brain News – A new study found that in comparison to non-COVID-19 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had higher levels over the short term of blood proteins associated with neurological damage.

Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, compared COVID patients with those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to determine whether COVID patients are at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or they could recover in the future. The study conducted in March–May 2020, identified seven blood markers of neurodegeneration: ubiquitin carboxy-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCHL1), total tau, ptau181, neurofilament light chain (NFL), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), Amyloid Beta 40 and 42, and toxic metabolic encephalopathy (TME).

The study divided the 251-COVID patient group into four categories comprising people with or without previous symptoms of cognitive unease, the discharged patients, and the dead patients. The comparison group of 161 control patients with Alzheimer’s disease belonged to the NYU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) Clinical Core cohort. The blood markers in the COVID patient group were measured in blood serum, while those in the Alzheimer’s study were measured in plasma.

The findings—published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association—revealed that COVID patients had as high, even higher levels of blood markers of brain injury than those with Alzheimer’s disease. The first six markers were examined to compare levels in both groups, but the main measure of neurological damage in COVID patients was TME that was caused by toxins generated with sepsis, uremia, and hypoxia and resulted in symptoms from confusion to coma.

Specifically, the average percentage increase in levels of the seven markers for hospitalized patients with TME compared to those without neurological symptoms was 60.5 percent. For the same markers within the COVID-19 group, the average percentage increase when comparing those successfully discharged home from the hospital to those who died in the hospital was 124 percent.

Lead researcher, Thomas M. Wisniewski, MD, said, “Traumatic brain injury, which is also associated with increases in these biomarkers, does not mean that a patient will develop Alzheimer’s or related dementia later on, but does increase the risk of it. Whether that kind of relationship exists in those who survive severe COVID-19 is a question we urgently need to answer with on-going monitoring of these patients.”

To Know More You Refer To:

Frontera, J. A., Boutajangout, A., Masurkar, A. V., Betensky, R. A., Ge, Y., Vedvyas, A., Debure, L., Moreira, A., Lewis, A., Huang, J., Thawani, S., Balcer, L., Galetta, S., & Wisniewski, T. (2022). Comparison of serum neurodegenerative biomarkers among hospitalized COVID-19 patients versus non-COVID subjects with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer’s dementia. Alzheimer’s & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 10.1002/alz.12556. Advance online publication.

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