BREAKING: It Has Been Shown That Mild Versions Of COVID Have Been Linked To Brain Damage; According To Scans

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It was reported that during at least the first few months following a coronavirus infection, even mild cases of Covid-19 are associated with subtle tissue damage and accelerated losses in brain regions tied to the sense of smell, as well as a small loss in the brain’s overall volume, a new British study finds. Having mild Covid is also associated with a cognitive function deficit.

These are the striking findings of the new study led by University of Oxford investigators, one that leading Covid researchers consider particularly important because it is the first study of the disease’s potential impact on the brain that is based on brain scans taken both before and after participants contracted the coronavirus.

“This study design overcomes some of the major limitations of most brain-related studies of Covid-19 to date, which rely on analysis and interpretation at a single time point in people who had Covid-19,” said Dr. Serena S. Spudich, a neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

The research, which was published Monday in Nature, also stands out because the lion’s share of its participants apparently had mild Covid — by far, the most common outcome of coronavirus infections. Most of the brain-related studies in this field have focused on those with moderate to severe Covid.

Gwenaëlle Douaud, an associate professor at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford and the paper’s lead author, said that the excess loss of brain volume she and her colleagues observed in brain scans of hundreds of British individuals is equivalent to at least one extra year of normal aging.

“It is brain damage, but it is possible that it is reversible,” she said. “But it is still relatively scary because it was in mildly infected people.”

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Douaud and her team relied on a rich data source: the United Kingdom Biobank. Before the Covid pandemic began, this mammoth database already had on hand tens of thousands of brain MRIs of people in Britain, along with responses to surveys about their diets and lifestyles and results from cognitive function tests.

The investigators focused on 401 people between 51 and 81 years old who had tested positive for Covid according to clinical data linked to the Biobank study. They were invited back for a second brain scan, which they received an average of about five months after contracting the coronavirus. Covid was apparently mild in the vast majority of these participants; only 15 of them were hospitalized with the disease.

The researchers compared these pairs of scans to those of a control group of 384 U.K. Biobank participants who had not tested positive for Covid and were matched according to the Covid-positive group’s rates of obesity, blood pressure, smoking and diabetes, as well as their socioeconomic status, age and sex.

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