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Covid patients are at risk of neurological and psychiatric conditions, according to new Oxford research


Aug 22, 2022

COVID patients face increased risk of neurological and psychiatric conditions including psychosis, dementia and brain fog two years after infection, according to new research from the University of Oxford.

The study investigated neurological and psychiatric diagnoses in over 1.25 million people following covid infection, using data from the US-based TriNetX electronic health record network.

It found that in adults, the risk of having a depression or anxiety diagnosis initially increased after infection.

The researchers are now calling for more support and resources for healthcare providers in diagnosing and managing these conditions.

Professor Paul Harrison, lead author of the study, from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, said: "In addition to confirming previous findings that covid can increase the risk for some neurological and psychiatric conditions in the first six months after infection, this study suggests that some of these increased risks can last for at least two years.

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"The results have important implications for patients and health services as it suggests new cases of neurological conditions linked to covid infection are likely to occur for a considerable time after the pandemic has subsided.

"Our work also highlights the need for more research to understand why this happens after covid, and what can be done to prevent or treat these conditions."

Dr Max Taquet, NIHR academic clinical fellow, said: “The findings shed new light on the longer-term mental and brain health consequences for people following covid infection.

“The results have implications for patients and health services and highlight the need for more research to understand why this happens after covid, and what can be done to prevent these disorders from occurring, or treat them when they do.”

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The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, a mental health journal, also found that children were more likely to be diagnosed with conditions including seizures and psychotic disorders.

There is also an increased risk of anxiety and depression in adults, but this subsides within two months of infection and, over two years, is no more likely than after other respiratory infections.

According to the research, the delta variant was associated with more disorders than the alpha, and omicron was associated with similar neurological and psychiatric risks as delta.

The risk of diagnosis of some other neurological and mental health conditions was still higher after coronavirus than for other respiratory infections at the end of the two-year follow-up.

Adults aged 18-64 who had covid up to two years previously had a higher risk of brain fog, and muscle disease, compared to those who had other respiratory infections up to two years previously.

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi