Over-65s who have had Covid are 80% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease within a year of being infected, a new study reveals.
Those in this age bracket were found to be 50-80% more at risk of developing the form of dementia than those who did not have the virus.
The results show that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease nearly doubled, from 0.35% to 0.68% among older people within a year of their diagnosis.
Researchers still do not know whether the coronavirus triggers a new development of Alzheimer’s disease or accelerates its emergence.
The research team analyzed the anonymous health records of 6.2 million adults aged 65 and older in the United States who received medical treatment between February 2020 and May 2021.
The records of those they examined had no prior diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers divided the people into two groups. Those who had previously contracted Covid were placed in one group, while those with no documented cases of the virus were separated into another.
There were more than 400,000 people in the group who had had Covid and 5.8 million in the other.
Dr Pamela Davis, research professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and co-author of the study, said: ‘The factors that play into the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been poorly understood, but two things considered important are previous infections, especially viral infections and inflammation.
“Given that Sars-CoV2 infection has been associated with central nervous system abnormalities, including inflammation, we wanted to test whether, even in the short term, Covid could lead to increased diagnoses.”
Dr Davis added: “If this increase in new Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses continues, the surge of patients with a currently incurable disease will be significant and could further strain our long-term care resources.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and difficult disease, and we thought we had reversed some of the trend by reducing general risk factors such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
“Now so many people in the United States have had Covid and the long term consequences of Covid continue to emerge. It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on future disability.
The team plans to continue studying the effects of Covid on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
They also aim to focus on people who may be more vulnerable and find ways to reuse FDA-approved drugs to treat the long-term effects of Covid.
The results were published in the Alzheimer’s Disease Journal.
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