COVID-19 linked to severe brain conditions: UK scientists

Specialists in London have linked COVID-19 to a rare form of brain inflammation. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 July 2020

COVID-19 linked to severe brain conditions: UK scientists

  • Nine cases in the UK capital are said to have shown signs of “concerning” disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem)
  • The rare form of brain inflammation involves swelling of the brain and spinal cord

LONDON: Specialists in London have linked COVID-19 to a rare form of brain inflammation. Nine cases in the UK capital are said to have shown signs of “concerning” disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), which involves swelling of the brain and spinal cord, leading to weakness in the limbs, loss of balance, fatigue and drowsiness.
So far, the cases have only occurred in adults with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, and represent the number the UK would expect to see nationally over the course of five months.
Adem is usually triggered by a viral infection, causing immune cells to attack the protective coating covering the nervous system.
COVID-19 was not detected in the brain or spinal fluid of any of the patients, according to the study, but evidence suggested that brain inflammation had been caused by an immune response to the disease.
Adem is not the only disorder linked to COVID-19. A study in the medical journal Brain has so far linked the virus to 43 different cases in the UK, including a brain disorder known as encephalopathy with delirium, which has so far affected 10 patients, and which causes confusion and even psychosis and seizures.
“We know from previous viruses that you can get neurological (consequences), so I don’t think we should be terribly surprised, but the range of clinical complications is broad,” said Dr. Ross Paterson of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, who co-authored the study published in Brain.
“To have cases of delirium with psychosis, completely out of proportion with the respiratory virus, is unusual. The cases we are seeing are perhaps just a small snapshot of the severe end of the spectrum,” he added.
“Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause. Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes.”
Patterson’s co-author Dr. Michael Zandi, also of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, said: “We identified a higher than expected number of people with neurological conditions such as brain inflammation, which did not always correlate with the severity of respiratory symptoms.”
Zandi added: “We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had COVID-19. Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic … remains to be seen.”


French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

Updated 46 min 55 sec ago

French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

  • PM Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing
  • The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey

PARIS: France’s prime minister led a memorial service Friday for six aid workers killed in Niger in what investigators said had likely been a premeditated attack targeting Westerners.
As the six caskets lay side by side in the VIP section of Orly Airport south of Paris, where the bodies arrived Friday from Niamey, Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing.
“In front of these six coffins... I want first of all to express the pain, the incomprehension, the anger of all French people,” said the premier as he saluted the youngsters’ generosity and altruism.
“The victims of this attack came to Niger to do good. They met with evil.”
The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey.
The area is a popular destination for weekend leisure trips by Niamey residents, including foreigners.
They worked for French NGO Acted and were aged between 25 and 30.
“This incarnation of evil, France unfortunately knows it only too well... it is very likely the same hatred, the same cowardice, the same inhumanity at work in Niger and Bataclan,” the Parisian concert venue targeted by extremists in 2015, said Castex.
And he stressed there was “no question of giving an inch of ground to criminal fanaticism or to enemies of the freedom to act, think and engage.”
Earlier, a source close to an ongoing investigation by French anti-terror prosecutors told AFP the attack “appears to have been premeditated to target a priori mainly Westerners.”
France’s anti-terror prosecutor’s office said Monday it would probe charges of murder “with links to a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association” in relation to the killings.
A team of 11 specialized investigators departed France for Niger the following day.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack carried out by gunmen on motorcycles.
But “given the modus operandi, the terrorist hypothesis is being favored,” the source told AFP.
Suspicion has fallen on Daesh in the Great Sahara, active in the shared border region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where it is being pursued by France’s Barkhane force fighting extremists in the Sahel.
The French investigation will seek to determine whether the assailants had been tipped off about the humanitarians’ visit to the national park.
French President Emmanuel Macron has described it as “manifestly a terrorist attack” and said there would be repercussions.
“We’re pursuing action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the strengthened support of our partners,” Macron said.