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Changes Similar to Alzheimers Take Place in Covid Patients’ Brains

Brain alterations that are part of Alzheimer’s disease are being seen in the brains of those who died with severe Covid-19, according to new research. Credit: Marco Verch/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Brain alterations similar to those found in Alzheimers patients are occurring in Covid patients’ brains as well, according to a new study out of New York City’s Columbia University.

Reuters reports in a summary of several recent studies on the coronavirus that the Columbia researchers say they need to engage in further research to corroborate their findings, adding that they are preliminary and have yet to be certified by peer review.

The studies involved looking at the brains of those who had succumbed to severe Covid; those individuals were observed to have brain abnormalities that look like the changes that take place as part of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimers changes seen in brains of those who suffered from most severe Covid-19

This includes an accumulation of a protein called tau inside the brain cells themselves as well as abnormal amounts of the protein called beta-amyloid, which accumulates into amyloid plaques.

Dr. Andrew Marks and his colleagues at Columbia studied the brains of ten coronavirus patients, also detecting defects in proteins called ryanodine receptors which control the passage of calcium into cells.

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with defective ryanodine receptors, which are linked to an accumulation of tau into what the researchers call neurofibrillary tangles. Such tangles were seen at high levels in the coronavirus patients’ brains, according to a report in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia last week.

Related: Alzheimer’s vaccine may not be far away

This isn’t the only evidence of such changes taking place as a result of Covid-19 infections; additional research teams have also detected abnormal amyloid levels in the brains of those who suffered from the coronavirus. Scientific papers delineating this research have been posted online on bioRxiv, the preprint server for Biology as well as the preprint server for The Lancet. Due to the immediacy of the research and its dissemination as the pandemic continues, the findings have not been peer reviewed yet.

All of the studies involved patients who had experienced the most severe forms of Covid-19. As of now it is unknown if the “brain fog” that is associated with Long Covid is associated with this phenomenon, but such findings might help explain why this is occurring in those with milder forms of the coronavirus, according to Marks.

Those patients suffering from severe Covid-19 could be at higher risk for developing dementia later in their lives, but as of now, but it is too soon to know this for sure, Marks noted.

Columbia researcher urges vaccine to help avoid contracting Covid-19

As for now, he says his advice for everyone is to get a booster vaccine and avoid catching the virus in the first place, cautioning “If you get COVID-19, you probably won’t die, but we still don’t know a lot about the long-term effects.”

Meanwhile, another study showed that seniors citizens can indeed get their annual flu shot and an mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine booster shot at the same time.

This study, undertaken by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, involved 306 participants, who were all above the age of 65 and who received either Sanofi’s Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent influenza vaccine and a booster of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine at the same time, or one of the vaccines all by itself.

The researchers say that according to blood samples that had been obtained both before the vaccinations and 21 days afterward indicated that getting the two vaccines together did not affect the resultant immune response.

In addition, similar antibody levels were generated in the study subjects in each of the three groups, according to their findings, which were published on Tuesday in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

A Sanofi spokesperson added that the multiple administrations of coronavirus and influenza vaccines “did not raise any safety concerns and the study team is continuing to follow study participants through 6 months after vaccination.”

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