Cases of brain disease linked to COVID-19 are occurring across the globe, a new review by University of Liverpool researchers has shown.
Published in The Lancet Neurology, the study found that strokes, delirium and other brain complications are reported from most countries where there have been large outbreaks of the disease.
COVID-19 has been associated mostly with problems like difficulty breathing, fever and cough. However, as the pandemic has continued, it has become increasingly clear that other problems can occur in patients. These include confusion, stroke, inflammation of the brain, spinal cord, and other kinds of nerve disease.
A recent Liverpool-led study of COVID-19 patients hospitalised in the UK found a range of neurological and psychiatric complications that may be linked to the disease.
To get a sense of the wider picture, the researchers brought together and analysed findings from COVID-19 studies across the globe that reported on neurological complications. The review, which included studies from China, Italy and the USA among others, found almost 1000 patients with COVID-19-associated brain, spinal cord and nerve disease.
Research Fellow, Dr Suzannah Lant, who was working on the project, said: “Whilst these complications are relatively uncommon, the huge numbers of COVID-19 cases globally mean the overall number of patients with neurological problems is likely to be quite large.”
One of the complications found to be linked to COVID-19 is encephalitis, which is inflammation and swelling of the brain.
Dr Ava Easton, CEO of the Encephalitis Society, and co-author on the paper said: “It is really important that doctors around the world recognise that COVID-19 can cause encephalitis and other brain problems, which often have potentially devastating, life-changing consequences for patients.”
Professor Tom Solomon, senior author on the paper and Director of the Global COVID-Neuro Network, added: “Although such patients are being seen everywhere the virus occurs, many of the reports are lacking in detail. We are currently pooling data from individual patients all around the world, so that we can get a more complete picture. Doctors who would like to contribute patients to this analysis can contact us via the Global COVID-Neuro Network website.”