LONDON, Oct. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — New data for the first time reveals a connection between COVID-19 and its worsening impact on patients with existing neurological conditions. Newly released research identifying distinct profiles of COVID-19 patients with neurological conditions and manifestations was unveiled at the 25th Biennial World Congress of Neurology (WCN) 2021 by world-renowned researcher Ettore Beghi, professor of neuroepidemiology at the University of Milan, Italy. Beghi’s presentation, “Special Lecture on Neuro COVID,” detailed both published and newly released findings of the European Academy of Neurology COVID-19 Registry (ENERGY), of which Beghi is a member.
“Most of the patients evaluated by neurologists and represented in ENERGY have a history of neurological disorders or meet certain demographic characteristics that put them at a higher risk for these complications. In this case, we’ve found the virus acts as a worsening actor,” said Beghi. “COVID-19 worsens patients’ functional abilities, putting them at a greater risk of premature mortality, prolonged hospitalization and persisting neurological symptoms during follow-up,” he added.
ENERGY, established in late spring 2020, has collected data from more than 1,700 patients diagnosed with COVID who also have a history of or exhibited a neurological disorder or symptoms. Although similar registries have been established across the globe throughout the pandemic, ENERGY is relatively unique because it follows up with and tracks COVID patients for twelve months after their conditions have been registered.
It is now understood that the likelihood of a stroke occurring during the acute stage of COVID-19 is much higher for a person with a history of vascular problems such as cardiovascular disease or hypertension compared to one who does not have this history.
Data also reveals that patients with neurodegenerative diseases tend to have more severe COVID cases and worse outcomes than those who do not.
NINE COVID PATIENT SCENARIOS REPRESENTING NEUROLOGICAL COMPLICATIONS
In his WCN 2021 presentation, Beghi revealed nine patient scenarios that represent the most prevalent neurological complications from COVID-19 that were evaluated and tracked by the registry. The scenarios include patients with:
- Cognitive impairment
- Dysexecutive syndrome, a type of cognitive impairment related to executive function such as planning, abstract thinking, flexibility and behavioral control
- Dysautonomia, or disorders of the autonomic nervous system
- Epileptic seizures
- Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathies, or diseases of the peripheral nervous system, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Sleep disorders
- Ataxia, a symptom of neurological problems that results in failure of muscle control in the arms and legs
“The COVID-19 virus creates neurological symptoms in patients that tend to persist over time, even after the worst of COVID is over,” said Beghi. “By following up with registrants over a period of time, we are able to gather data on how many have recovered from their symptoms, how many have persisting symptoms and how many present with new symptoms.”
Gathering this kind of data is essential to neurologists’ and the global understanding of COVID-19 and how it affects the brain, as well as for predicting patient outcomes. So far, more than 150 ENERGY registrants have completed their twelve-month follow-up appointments.
The European Academy of Neurology is not alone in its interest in the neurological impact of COVID or the creation of a COVID registry. The National Institutes of Health is funding a larger registry in the United States. ENERGY also collaborated with another U.S.-based registry to collect and analyze data on predictors of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. National registries, including those in Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Italy, also exist, some of which are collaborating with ENERGY to compare data.
In the long-term, Beghi hopes to continue the research of ENERGY long after the end of COVID-19. He cites difficulties in extending the initiative, since this work was supported almost entirely by the voluntary and unpaid collaboration of centers in 28 countries associated with the European Academy of Neurology.
There are no formal funding mechanisms for ENERGY. Others heading the initiative are also concerned. These include Claudio Bassetti, president of the European Academy of Neurology and professor of neurology, University of Bern, Switzerland; Raimund Helbok, professor of neurology, University of Innsbruck, Austria; and Elena Moro, professor of neurology, Grenoble Alpes University, Grenoble, France. They believe the registry must be maintained and are seeking ways to secure funding.
“We must take the lessons we have learned from COVID to prepare for the future. Even after this pandemic ends, new ones may arise in the future. Having a system that can be operated immediately in the presence of a new virus will be useful,” said Beghi.
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About the World Congress of Neurology
The World Federation of Neurology’s World Congress of Neurology brings together leading neuroscientists and public health experts to turn research into action and emphasize the importance of brain health across the globe. The 25th Biennial conference occurred virtually from October 3 to 7, 2021, and was organized in association with the Italian Society of Neurology (SIN).
About the World Federation of Neurology
The World Federation of Neurology represents 122 neurological member societies around the globe to foster quality neurology and brain health worldwide by promoting neurological education and training with an emphasis on under-resourced areas of the world. WFN supports the spread of research and clinical information in the pursuit of improvements in the field of neurology. With support from member organizations around the globe, WFN unites the world to allow patients greater access to brain health. For more information, please visit the WCN 2021 website at www.wfneurology.org, find our live stream press conferences on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wfneurology/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/wfneurology or by searching using the tag #WCN2021.
Michelle Damico, Ben Wagner