Older people infected with COVID-19 have a 50% to 80% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease within a year, researchers have said.

The team has said that if this increase in new diagnoses of the disease continue, “the wave of patients with a disease currently without a cure will be substantial” and will put pressure on resources.

The American study of more than six million people aged 65 and over found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was highest in women aged 85 and over.

Study co-author Pamela Davis, Distinguished University Professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said: “Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and challenging disease, and we thought we had turned some of the tide on it by reducing general risk factors such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

“Now, so many people in the U.S. have had COVID and the long-term consequences of COVID are still emerging. It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on future disability.”

The study showed that following infection with COVID-19, the risk among older people of developing Alzheimer’s disease within a year almost doubled, from 0.35% to 0.68%.

It is not known whether the virus triggers the new development of Alzheimer’s or whether it speeds up its emergence.

Professor Davis said: “The factors that play into the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been poorly understood, but two pieces considered important are prior infections, especially viral infections, and inflammation.

“Since infection with SARS-CoV2 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.”

The study’s corresponding author, Professor Rong Xu, said the research into the effects of the virus on neurodegenerative disorders will continue.

The study has been published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.


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