COVID-19 could spark a wave of Parkinson’s disease
Neurologists warn that the COVID-19 infection may pose yet another serious threat to human health -l consequences that could follow in the wake of the virus.
Although scientists are still learning how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to invade the brain and central nervous system, the fact that it's getting in there is clear," says neuroscientist Kevin Barnham from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health in Australia.
Our best understanding is that the virus can cause insult to brain cells, with potential for neurodegeneration to follow on from there."
A similar effect after the Spanish Flu pandemic
A similar long-term effect was seen after the Spanish Flu pandemic last century. Then, a form of brain inflammation called encephalitis lethargica tied to the pandemic increased the risk of parkinsonism by two to three times.
We can take insight from the neurological consequences that followed the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918," Barnham says.
In a new study, Barnham and his co-authors propose that the "third wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic might not be a resurgence in coronavirus infections, but a subsequent increase in viral-associated cases of Parkinson's disease, seeded by neuroinflammation, triggered in the brain as an immune response to the virus.
While the researchers acknowledge there is currently insufficient data to quantify the increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease in relation to COVID-19 infections, they suggest the best way of identifying future cases early would be long-term screening of SARS-CoV-2 cases post-recovery, monitoring for expressions of neurodegenerative disease.
The findings are reported in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.