Groundbreaking Australian research has found the main causes behind one of the mysterious symptoms experienced by long-time Covid sufferers: mental deterioration caused by “brain fog”.
By identifying the nerve toxin responsible for the confusion in the brain experienced by long-time Covid sufferers, doctors say they will be able to try potential treatments for the condition and possibly discover new treatments for other cognitive impairments.
However, the new research also points to some grim realities for those already suffering from brain fog until treatment is available.
Long Covid is the broad description of a number of long-term conditions experienced by some people who have been infected with the Covid-19 virus and includes fatigue, fever, joint pain, cough, headache, and difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly.
Researchers have shown that brain fog is a real affliction and have pinpointed what they believe to be its source in the body during studies of long-term Covid patients.
Bruce Brew, a neurologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales, made the discovery with colleagues while studying the effects of the long Covid.
Their work shows that brain fog is a real condition.
“It validates that there is an organic basis for cognitive impairment, and it gives us that goal – there has been some controversy in the past about the long-standing Covid and related cognitive impairment,” Dr Brew told the Daily Mail Australia.
“It gives us an explanation of what the basis of cognitive impairment is and gives us a goal.”
Brain fog refers to problems with memory, attention, and executive function related to other long-standing Covid symptoms.
Dr. Bruce Brew (pictured) found the nerve toxins behind the brain fog and said the long trial process for treatments can now begin.
‘There are some drugs that are being developed and tested on other diseases that can have an effect on this path. It gives us the opportunity to look at it much more carefully and perhaps explore other therapeutic options.
“These things (experimenting with cures) are always frustratingly slow but having a goal, we hope to be able to track it quickly with the support of other researchers around the world …
In a St Vincent study of 128 patients over 12 months, researchers found that the cognitive impacts of long Covid can last for more than a year, and for some, they may even be permanent.
The study found that one in five of the patients had cognitive problems that could be traced to a particular pathway in the body.
Once infected, the kynurenine pathway, which is responsible for energy balance, mood and the immune system, can raise the level of two chemicals with damaging effects.
System infections can potentially cause an increase in quinolinic acid and 3 hydroxyantranic acid.
The nerve toxin arises after some virus inhibits a crucial immune system response, with an increase in chemicals that damage nerve cells and, subsequently, brain cells
Brew said that “pieces” of the virus that should have been eliminated after the patient recovered from Covid may continue to stimulate that pathway in the immune system and cause the problems associated with brain fog.
The path is designed to slow down the immune system once a job is completed.
“It’s like someone is in a parking lot and has put their foot on the accelerator – it’s the immune system that goes into overdrive – and this path has put its foot on the brake and the car is moving forward, but it’s doing a lot of damage to the brakes and the car itself, ‘said Dr Brew.
Physical and mental exercises are used in long Covid clinics to help patients gradually regain strength (in the photo, the new Sydney clinic at St Vincent’s Hospital)
The process can cause damaging and potentially irreversible nerve damage.
“It damages nerve cells and long enough exposure will kill some brain cells,” he said, which can lead to long-term brain damage similar to “traumatic brain injury.”
“We don’t know to what extent long-term Covid patients have repaired irreversible damage versus something that’s being repaired against ongoing damage.”
The Daily Mail Australia previously reported revelations from Dr. Brew’s colleagues, with a prominent St Vincent hospital physician saying he noted that those with more than five symptoms while infected with Covid were more likely to develop long-lasting symptoms. of Covid.
Dr Anthony Byrne also said that even the young and fit are not spared from the “highly variable and rather debilitating” condition.
“I saw a young, high-level individual, had a high-level job, who had Covid in December and hasn’t been able to work since,” he said.
St Vincent’s Hospital (pictured) opened a clinic in New South Wales to treat long-term Covid patients and monitored patient progress
That patient, Dr. Byrne said, is unable to work because he suffers from sleep problems, crippling fatigue, and his brain “not functioning properly.”
It leaves him unable to complete complex tasks and, in some days, even find words.
Both Dr Byrne and Dr Brew pointed out that, despite the lifting of lockdowns and easing of restrictions, Covid is not over yet, with its true impact extending beyond hospitalizations.
“I think it is a mistake to assess the impact of Covid on society on the number of ICU admissions alone,” said Dr. Byrne.
“The long Covid has a significant impact on the community and individuals, and people need to get vaccinated – it seems to mitigate the problem of the presence and severity of the long Covid – and at the same time recognize that it is not the last thing we can do. either. We have to remain reasonable, “said Dr. Brew.
WHAT IS LONG COVID?
Long Covid is used to refer to coronavirus symptoms that persist for months after the original infection.
A person is considered to have had Covid for a long time if their symptoms continue for more than four weeks after the initial infection.
Sufferers can experience a range of symptoms including extreme fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, brain fog, memory loss, and changes in taste and smell, among other ailments.