Long COVID Caused by COVID Related Nerve Damage, Finds Study

The study researchers say that nerve damage may be caused by an immune dysfunction triggered by the COVID virus.

2 min read
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Nearly 60 Percent of patients with Long COVID had some form of nerve damage caused by the virus, found a recent study conducted in the US.

The study, jointly led by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that the nerve damage in these patients was likely a result of immune dysfunction triggered by the COVID-19 virus.


Decoding The Study: Key Takeaways 

Before we look at what the study found, let's look at some key points of how it was conducted.

  • The study involved 17 patients who met WHO's criteria of long COVID.

16 of these patients had mild COVID, and only 1 patient had severe illness requiring ICU stay and ventilator support.
  • The average of the participants was 43

  • 69 percent of them were females

  • 94 percent of them were Caucasian, and 19 percent were Latino

These patients were tracked for 1.4 years on average wherein their symptoms were monitored and objective neurodiagnostic test results, and outcomes were examined.

Two of these patients were found to have rare neuropathies affecting motor nerves to muscle

10 others were diagnosed with small-fiber neuropathy, a recognized cause of chronic pain and fatigue.


Nerve damage and Long COVID

"Our findings suggest that some long-COVID patients had damage to their peripheral nerve fibers, and that damage to the small-fiber type of nerve cell may be prominent."
Anne Louise Oaklander, lead author of the study, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital

Speaking of the reason behind the nerve damage, Dr Oaklander says, “most long-COVID neuropathies described so far appear to reflect immune responses to the virus that went off course. And some patients seem to improve from standard treatments for other immune-related neuropathies.”

The study was a small one involving only 17 patients, however, it does add to the existing body of evidence linking COVID to neurological damage.

In an interview with FIT in April 2021, Dr Avindra Nath, Chief of the Section of Infections of the Nervous System, at NIH, spoke of early research linking COVID to neurological symptoms like tremors, stroke, fatigue, and neurocognitive issues.

“We looked at autopsy brain tissues of patients who had died of covid and we found that the blood vessels in the brain were quite abnormal. They were leaky blood vessels."
Dr Avindra Nath, Director, NINDS, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)

"One of the major possibilities is that it is an ongoing inflammation, that is driving these symptoms," he adds.

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Topics:  coronavirus   COVID-19   long COVID 

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