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Catching Covid Increases Risk of Neurological And Psychiatric Disorders, Says Latest Study

By: Himani Chandna

News18.com

Last Updated: August 18, 2022, 09:00 IST

New Delhi, India

The study analysed data on 14 neurological and psychiatric diagnoses gathered from electronic health records mostly from the US over a two-year period. (Representational image: Shutterstock)

The study analysed data on 14 neurological and psychiatric diagnoses gathered from electronic health records mostly from the US over a two-year period. (Representational image: Shutterstock)

The likelihood of most neurological and psychiatric diagnoses after Covid-19 was lower in children than in adults, and they were not at greater risk of anxiety or depression than children who had other respiratory infections, the researchers say

People with a history of Covid-19 infection face increased risks of developing some neurological and psychiatric conditions up to two years after infection, found a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

According to an observational study of over 1.25 million patient health records who were diagnosed with Covid-19, there is an elevated risk of developing some neurological and psychiatric conditions, including psychosis, dementia, brain fog, and seizures, for two years after the viral infection compared to other respiratory infections.

Since the Covid pandemic began, there has been growing evidence that survivors might be at increased risk of neurological and psychiatric conditions.

A previous observational study by the same research group reported that Covid-19 survivors are more prone to several neurological and mental health conditions in the first six months after infection.

The study notes that there is also a heightened risk of anxiety and depression in adults, though this subsides within two months of Covid-19 infection.

Children were more likely to be diagnosed with some conditions, including seizures and psychotic disorders, but the likelihood of most diagnoses after Covid-19 was lower than in adults.

Also, the possibility of most neurological and psychiatric diagnoses after Covid was lower in children than in adults, and they were not at greater risk of anxiety or depression than children who had other respiratory infections. However, like adults, children were more likely to be diagnosed with some conditions, including seizures (260 cases per 10,000 children for the Covid-19 group) and psychotic disorders (18 cases per 10,000 children for the Covid-19 group), over the two years following the viral infection.

While researchers call for more resources and support for healthcare providers in diagnosing and managing these conditions, the Delta variant was associated with more disorders than the previous Alpha variant.

“Omicron was associated with similar neurological and psychiatric risks as Delta,” the study said.

‘Increased risks can last for at least two years’

It is claimed to be the first large-scale study to look at the risk of neurological and mental health conditions after Covid-19 in children and to assess how the risks change with the emergence of new variants.

As of now, there is no other large-scale data examining the risks of these diagnoses over a longer time period.

According to the lead author of the study, Professor Paul Harrison from the University of Oxford, UK, “In addition to confirming previous findings that Covid-19 can increase the risk for some neurological and psychiatric conditions in the first six months after infection, this study suggests that some of these increased risks can last for at least two years. The results have important implications for patients and health services as it suggests new cases of neurological conditions linked to Covid-19 infection are likely to occur for a considerable time after the pandemic has subsided.”

Harrison says that his team’s work highlights the need for more research to understand why this happens after Covid-19, and what can be done to prevent or treat these conditions.

How the study was done

The study analysed data on 14 neurological and psychiatric diagnoses gathered from electronic health records mostly from the US over a two-year period.

Of those with health records in the US-based TriNetX network, 12.84 lakh people had a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection on or after January 20, 2020, and were included in the study: 1.85 lakh children (aged under 18 years), 8.56 lakh adults between 18 and 64 years old, and 2.42 lakh adults over 65.

These individuals were matched to an equal number of patients with another respiratory infection to act as a control group.

Records from Covid-19 patients infected during different pandemic waves were also compared to investigate differences in the impact of the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants on the risk of neurological and psychiatric diagnoses.

“People who had a first diagnosis of Covid-19 within the period when a particular variant was dominant (Alpha: 47,675 people, Delta: 44,835 people, Omicron: 39,845 people) were compared with a control group of the same number of individuals who had a first diagnosis of Covid-19 in the period just before the emergence of that variant,” the study explained.

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first published:August 18, 2022, 09:00 IST
last updated:August 18, 2022, 09:00 IST