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COVID-19 linked to higher dementia risk in older adults, study finds

In a recent study posted to Preprints with The Lancet on the SSRN* server First Look, researchers investigated whether coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) played a task in the event of new-onset dementia over different time intervals in adults above the age of 60 years.



Study: Temporal Association between COVID-19 Infection and Subsequent Latest-Onset Dementia in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Evaluation. Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

*Vital notice: Preprints with The Lancet / SSRN publishes preliminary scientific reports that should not peer-reviewed and, due to this fact, shouldn’t be thought to be conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Background

Although the immediate concerns concerning the high morbidity and mortality rates related to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections have been put to rest due to concerted efforts worldwide to vaccinate the worldwide population, emerging evidence indicates that COVID-19 has long-term impacts on neurological trajectories. An increasing variety of studies have been examining whether the pandemic has increased the danger of cognitive impairments or exacerbated neurodegenerative conditions similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research indicates that older adults who’ve had SARS-CoV-2 infections are at the next risk of cognitive decline as in comparison with matched healthy adults or individuals with other respiratory diseases. Neurobiological studies have also found that SARS-CoV-2 can trigger immune dysregulation, inflammation within the central nervous system, and autoimmune responses that may exacerbate and speed up neurodegenerative conditions.

Moreover, the increased levels of tau aggregation, deposition of amyloid-beta, tau, neurofilament light chain, and other cerebrospinal fluid markers related to COVID-19 highlight the necessity to judge its role in triggering new-onset dementia.

In regards to the study

In the current study, the researchers reviewed existing literature and conducted a meta-analysis to find out whether SARS-CoV-2 infections increase the danger of new-onset dementia in adults over the age of 60.

Despite growing evidence on the link between COVID-19 and the increased risk of exacerbation of neurodegenerative disorders similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the findings on whether COVID-19 is related to new-onset dementia remain inconclusive. The methodologies within the studies examining this association are highly variable across aspects similar to the baseline clinical data of the patients, durations of follow-up, study design, kinds of dementia examined, and demographic characteristics of the patients.

The meta-analysis aimed to research the findings from these varied studies to form a comprehensive understanding of the danger of new-onset dementia in older adults who’ve had SARS-CoV-2 infections and establish early intervention measures.

The review included studies that evaluated the long-term impact of SARS-CoV-2 infections within the onset of any type of dementia in adults over the age of 60 years who had survived COVID-19. Each retrospective and prospective observational studies that included patients who had recovered from COVID-19 and had undergone assessments for dementia were considered for the evaluation.

Data extracted from the studies included the form of control groups used, the diagnosis method for detecting COVID-19, assessments used to diagnose dementia, form of dementia, the duration of the follow-up, and the form of respiratory infection, similar to bacterial infection, influenza, or SARS-CoV-2.

Moreover, the association between COVID-19 and the event of new-onset dementia was also analyzed for various subgroups based on sex, age groups, form of dementia, comorbidities, severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections, and follow-up durations. Forms of dementia examined within the study included Alzheimer’s disease, all-cause dementia, Lewy body dementia, and vascular dementia.

Results

The outcomes reported that SARS-CoV-2 infections could be related to the next risk of new-onset dementia in adults above the age of 60 years in the course of the subacute or chronic phases of the infection after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Nevertheless, the danger of new-onset dementia after COVID-19 didn’t appear to be higher than that after other respiratory infections, similar to influenza or bacterial infections.

The researchers found that the danger of developing new-onset dementia after a SARS-CoV-2 infection was higher on the one-year follow-up in comparison with the three- and six-month follow-ups, suggesting that new-onset dementia was one among the long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infections.

The subgroup analyses also indicated that regardless of COVID-19 status, females were at the next risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and all-cause dementia than males. COVID-19 severity in older adults was also related to an increased risk of new-onset dementia, although the definition of severe COVID-19 was found to differ across studies.

Conclusions

Overall, the findings suggested that in comparison with older adults who didn’t have SARS-CoV-2 infections, COVID-19 in adults above the age of 60 years was linked to the next risk of new-onset dementia. Nevertheless, the danger was found to be just like that related to respiratory infections from other etiological agents. Moreover, the danger of new-onset dementia was found to be one among the long-term outcomes of COVID-19.

*Vital notice: Preprints with The Lancet / SSRN publishes preliminary scientific reports that should not peer-reviewed and, due to this fact, shouldn’t be thought to be conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

  • Preliminary scientific report.
    Dan Shan, Congxiyu Wang, Trevor Crawford, Carol Holland. 2024. Temporal Association between COVID-19 Infection and Subsequent Latest-Onset Dementia in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Evaluation. DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.4716751, https://ssrn.com/abstract=4716751  
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