People have a mental illness after COVID-19 and are urging scientists to investigate whether the body accidentally attacks the brain after infection

Close-up of a British healthcare worker in PPE holding the hand of a COVID-19 patient holding an oxygen monitor on his finger.

In January 2021, a healthcare worker is holding a woman’s hand at King’s College Hospital in London. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

  • Some patients develop psychotic symptoms after COVID-19 infection.

  • Pandemic stress can cause psychiatric problems.

  • However, some scientists believe it could be the virus that causes the body to attack the brain.

In 2020, the day after the symptoms of COVID-19 appeared, a 30-year-old man began to think he could talk to his deceased relatives.

Men with no history of mental illness became convinced that religious delight was imminent. According to a case report published in August.

Reportedly, the episode of mental illness lasted for more than a month, during which time the man thought he was knocking down the door, pushing his mother, and experimenting with radiation.

He was given antipsychotics, but they had little effect. According to a case study, he improved after being given medications commonly used to treat autoimmune conditions.

“Psychosis is one of the great mysteries of medicine. There is a fairly poor understanding of the causes of mental illness and its onset,” Dr. Jonathan Rogers, a clinician and psychiatric researcher at the University College of London, told insiders. rice field.

Studies suggest that psychiatric symptoms are common among COVID-19 survivors.

One study In the health record of more than 200,000 US COVID-19 patients, About 13% received some psychiatric or neurological diagnosis for the first time within 6 months of infection.

Psychosis (a much more serious specific mental state) affected only 0.42% of the group.

However, studies show that such frequency was about twice that of people in the control group (patients with the flu).

Two scientists who spoke with insiders said that this kind of increase could be an indirect reason: the psychological stress that comes from having COVID-19.

But research shows that something else may be happening. The virus can attack the body and cause the brain to malfunction.

The theory is that the virus Causes so-called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, An autoimmune reaction that causes inflammation of the brain. As a result, it can cause mental illness.

The brain is usually protected from the immune system by a structure called the blood-brain barrier.

However, COVID-19 can “leak” the barrier, said Dr. Benedict Michael, a clinician at the University of Liverpool.

“It exposes immune cells to brain proteins not found otherwise,” he said. Registration of neurological complications after COVID-19..

The immune system then begins to attack cells in the brain, especially NMDA receptors carried by neurons.

As a result, neurons are less sensitive to stimuli. “It’s as effective as ketamine,” he said, referring to a powerful sedative.

Scientists have pointed out that another virus, called HSV-1, can cause similar brain problems.

They also pointed out a handful of recorded cases Inflammation of the brain after COVID-19 And some show the oppositeNMDA receptor antibody In the patient’s blood.

The good news is that this kind of problem should be treatable with anti-inflammatory and antipsychotic drugs.

“There wasn’t much brain damage, so we hope the majority will achieve a reasonable recovery,” Michelle said.

But both Rogers and Michael said the theory should be taken with a grain of salt. They said that only a few cases of psychosis were recorded after COVID-19, and even fewer when antibody levels were measured.

The presence of anti-NMDA receptor antibodies may be unrelated to psychosis, Michael said.

“There may be immunological evidence for these individual psychological cases, but I don’t think they have been proven for treatment,” he said.

“Psychiatry has a history of all kinds of treatments and should be given to only one patient, but it doesn’t look very good in clinical trials,” he said.

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