Cognitive impairment due to Covid-19 equated to 20 years of aging

(ORDO NEWS) — According to the authors of the study, people who have had a severe coronavirus infection may require longer treatment and support due to persistent cognitive deficits.

A study by scientists from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London (UK) showed that the cognitive deficit that arose as a result of a severe form of coronavirus disease is equivalent to the difference in mental abilities between a 50-year-old and a 70-year-old.

It’s no secret that Covid-19 leads to persistent cognitive and mental health problems. Recovered patients complain of post-COVID syndrome , which is characterized, among other things, by “brain fog”, inability to remember certain words or concentrate, which, as a result, is fraught with disruption of the usual way of life and loss of work.

In the UK alone, more than 13 percent of coronavirus survivors surveyed reported signs of cognitive dysfunction three months after infection.

Moreover, sometimes such consequences of the disease are also found in those who have been ill in a mild form, although, of course, recovered “severe” patients are more likely to experience this. The neurobiological and psychological basis of such disorders is not completely clear.

The authors of the new study decided to assess the cognitive function of patients one to ten months (average 179 days) after they were admitted to Addenbrooks Hospital (Cambridge) with severe Covid-19.

The final sample included 46 people admitted to a medical facility between March 10 and July 31, 2020 (16 people needed mechanical ventilation): 27 of them were women, the average age was 51 years. Participants completed special cognitive tests on computers, using the Cognitron platform , in total – eight tasks.

They also completed standard scales for mood, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a health questionnaire. Their data was compared with the control group – 460 people – taking into account, among other things, the level of education and mother tongue.

Those who recovered from severe Covid-19 scored significantly lower and completed tasks more slowly than expected. Worst of all, the tests were performed by participants who were on a ventilator in the hospital. A reanalysis of 43 patients in the chronic phase (over 90 days after symptom onset) gave a similar result.

“The scoring scale for survivors of severe Covid-19 was similar to that of normal age-related cognitive decline in people in their 70s compared to those in their 50s. But the changes were less significant than cognitive decline between 20 and 70 years of age or cognitive problems in patients with dementia three years after diagnosis, ”the scientists write.

While hospital survivors often complain of a range of mental health symptoms depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, low motivation, fatigue, low mood, and sleep disturbances scientists say it is the severity of Covid-19 best predicted cognitive deficits.

“At the level of individual clinical signs, assessment of the severity of Covid-19 according to the World Health Organization scale, elevated levels of C-reactive protein (the main marker of the acute phase of inflammation.

As well as the need for mechanical ventilation and support for other organs all these were predictive factors for cognitive decline,” the researchers emphasized.

Over time, subjects began to show better test results and reaction times, but the authors of the work believe that any recovery in cognitive abilities was at best gradual and, apparently, depended, among other things, on the severity of the illness and its neurological or psychological consequences.

“It is very possible that some of these people will never fully recover,” concluded Professor David Menon from the University of Cambridge.


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