Experts believe dementia likely does not increase risk for COVID-19, but whether the inverse is also true is unknown. COVID-19 appears to have some effect on brain function, at least in the short term, with some people showing neurological symptoms such as inability to taste and smell, confusion, delirium, seizures and stroke. However, the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the brain after recovery of the acute infection is not yet understood. Might the impact of COVID-19 on the cerebrovascular system (e.g., blood-brain barrier integrity), the brain's immune response — or more — have potential consequences for risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another dementia in the future?
The Alzheimer’s Association is co-leading a new international study to track and evaluate the long-term impact of exposure to COVID-19 on the brain. Scientists from more than 30 countries have formed a multidisciplinary consortium to collect data and evaluate long-term consequences of the viral infection on the central nervous system, cognition, behavior and function. They also will study the differences across countries of the viral impact of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical assistance to move this important collaboration forward. We will align with existing studies, such as the Framingham Heart Study, and collaborate with clinicians from around the world to coordinate how data are collected and measured.
This study will enroll two groups of individuals: People with confirmed cases of COVID-19 who have been discharged from a hospital and people who are enrolled in existing international research studies. The former will be evaluated at 6, 9 and 18 months. Where possible, scientists will add additional measures and markers of underlying biology to those who already are enrolled in research studies. Knowledge gained could potentially help inform strategies for early detection, treatment and prevention of dementia and other neurological disorders.
We seek philanthropic partners to join us in powering this essential and timely project. In addition to co-leading this international collaborative study the Alzheimer’s Association is funding its launch. We have committed $300,000 for a project coordinator based at the University of Texas at San Antonio and for the development of an electronic cognitive assessment that is independent of language and literacy and will be made available to all the study teams worldwide. We would like to commit an additional $105,000 to initiate data collection at sites in the United Kingdom. At present we are also preparing a proposal to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to power the study’s operations.