22 Jul 2020

COVID attacks the brain

The COVID-19 virus can also affect the brain for the worse,
by stimulating an over-active immune response.
Reproduced from Alfred Health

A leading Alfred neurologist has warned that the headaches, psychosis, fatigue and memory loss some COVID-19 patients develop, could be the start of major life-long neurological complications.

Neurologist Dr Robb Wesselingh said some people who were young, fit and healthy before COVID have developed neurological complications, such as strokes, seizures, psychosis, extreme fatigue and memory loss.

It is believed the COVID virus may cause a patient’s immune system to attack their brain which can potentially leave them with lasting brain damage.

“When the pandemic started and people were presenting with headaches and in confused states, these neurological symptoms went undetected because we only knew the virus to be respiratory. We weren’t looking for how the virus was attacking the nervous system or that these people were suffering inflammation of the brain," said Dr Wesselingh.

Research suggests these complications may be a result of collateral damage from the body’s immune response to fighting the COVID-19 virus. In order to understand more about these long term effects, the Alfred Neurology team are setting up a registry to follow COVID-19 patient’s long term and potentially collect and store COVID-19 patient’s samples.

“These complications are rare but can happen to anyone,” said Dr Wesselingh.

“I’m pretty young, and if I catch the virus my body can handle the respiratory symptoms such as a cough and fever – but what if I’m left with neurological complications that leave me unable to concentrate and retain memories - that would be devastating for my life.”

“We haven’t yet seen the severity of COVID-19 cases like some countries, but the more cases we get, the more likely we are to see these types of complications.”

In addition to being a practising neurologist, Dr Robb Wesselingh is a PhD student in Dr Mastura Monif's research group, investigating autoimmune conditions which affect the central nervous system. See more

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