A COVID-19 infection for people aged 65 and older could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease within a year of infection by up to 80%, a study released in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has claimed.
The study analysed the electronic health records of 6.2 million American adults aged 65 and older who had received medical treatment between February 2020 and May 2021.
On average, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease following a COVID-19 infection was double that of people without COVID-19 – 0.68% compared to 0.35% normally.
Of the 6.2 million health records studied, 410,000 people had a documented case of COVID-19.
Women over 85 years of age were found to be the most high-risk demographic with a risk factor of 2.01%.
Co-author Pamela Davis, Distinguished University Professor and The Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Research Professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said the link between COVID (SARS-CoV-2) and central nervous system abnormalities may accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s.
“The factors that play into the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been poorly understood, but two pieces considered important are prior infections, especially viral infections, and inflammation,” explained Ms Davis.
“If this increase in new diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease is sustained, the wave of patients with a disease currently without a cure will be substantial and could further strain long-term care resources.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and challenging disease, and we thought we had turned some of the tide on it by reducing general risk factors such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.”
She added that so many people in America and the world have had COVID and the long-term consequences of the virus are still emerging.
“It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on future disability,” she said.
What remains unclear is the exact correlation between the two, as the study could not determine whether COVID-19 brought on Alzheimer’s more quickly or if it, in fact, caused it to develop entirely.
A recent Australian study by La Trobe University’s Institute for Molecular Science found that the ‘brain fog’ reported by many long-COVID sufferers appears to have the same neurological triggers as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Dr Nick Reynolds stated that fragments of protein from SARS-CoV-2 form amyloid clumps similar to those found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Ms Davis and Case Western Reserve University plan to further investigate the impact of COVID-19 on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.