As the world struggles with the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists warn that the infection may pose yet another serious threat to human health, in the form of a "silent wave" of neurological consequences that could follow in the wake of the virus.

While the specific risks remain hypothetical at this point, the concerns are very real. In fact, a similar long-term effect was seen after the Spanish Flu pandemic last century. We already know that COVID-19 has links to brain damage, neurological symptoms, and memory loss. What's less clear is how the infection can bring about these crippling symptoms, in what volume, and to what ultimate effect.

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. Our best understanding is that the virus can cause insult to brain cells, with potential for neurodegeneration to follow on from there.
Neuroscientist Kevin Barnham from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health in Australia.


How to measure that potential is the big question.

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.

COVID-19 infection may have been a stressor that brings previously subtle, unrecognised symptoms to a point of awareness, It's not that those exposures caused Parkinson's but, rather they acted as precipitants, exacerbating subtle Parkinson's symptoms to a threshold of severity making them noticeable for the first time to patients and physicians.
neurologist Alberto Espay from the University of Cincinnati, who was not involved with the case

The findings are reported in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.


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