New study finds three conditions can result in death from Covid

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A new study from the Oxford University Press and published in the journal Biology Methods & Protocols, suggests that some pre-existing conditions could increase the risk of death by COVID-19.

Overall, three types of conditions can increase someone’s risk of the condition, dementia, other degenerative neurological diseases, and people with severe disabilities.

Recent research suggests that these matter a lot more when it comes to someone’s probability of survival than first thought. Other comorbidities too, such as obesity, can also have an impact on survival.

The reason for this is because many diseases can weaken the immune system and thus make it harder for the body to react to foreign bodies which may threaten its survival.

In a bid to understand what can increase the risk of someone dying from COVID-19, the researchers from Oxford University Press undertook an analysis of prevailing conditions in order to establish which increased the risk of death from the virus to the greatest degree.

They did so by following patients with Covid in order to predict mortality; overall, 347,220 patients from the Veteran Affairs facility were followed as part of a new model for predicting death known as PDeathDx.

What they found was surprising, that dementia, neurodegenerative diseases, and severe disabilities contributed greatly to an increased risk of dementia. However, these are often not considered by physicians as they are not respiratory illnesses.

Writing in the journal, the authors said: “These disorders are often associated with a poor quality of life that dictates a conservative approach to treatment. If this decision is common for COVID-19 patients, then death may be more indicative of the patient’s baseline condition than severity of illness.”

What should be done following this study?

While study had some limitations as lined out by the authors as part of their discussion, their recommendations were for more research to be conducted. They concluded: “Further studies should be done on other populations and conditions before the method should be widely applied.

“If validated, our method could provide a more robust alternative to comorbidity scores for handling pre-existing conditions in multivariate models.”

Furthermore, the study in question also provides an insight into how pre-existing conditions can increase the risk of death from COVID-19. While it was known certain respiratory conditions could increase someone’s risk, non-respiratory infections have rarely been considered.

While dementia may increase the risk of someone dying from COVID-19, so too may the virus increase the risk of someone developing the neurodegenerative disease.

Researchers suggest that patients over the age of 65 who have survived COVID-19 are as much as 80 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, within a year of contracting the virus.

The data has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Co-author Doctor Pamela Davis wrote: “Since infection with SARS-CoV-2 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.”

As part of the research, the team examined the health records of more than six million people over the age of 65 who had had medical treatment between February 2020 and May 2021; it is important to note none of these patients had Alzheimer’s when the study began.

In the year after their infection, 400,000 patients had developed Alzheimer’s disease and had twice the risk of the disease than those who had not had Covid.

The authors concluded: “Older adults with COVID-19 were at significantly increased risk for new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease with highest risk in people age ≥85 [greater than or equal to] and in women. Next steps include validation from other data resources, longer-term follow-up, mechanism understanding and examining other types of dementia.”

Does this mean COVID-19 can cause Alzheimer’s?

No, the authors were very quick to point out that this does not mean that COVID-19 causes Alzheimer’s, further studies are needed in order to prove or disprove this point.

Doctor Santosh Kesari said: “I want to be clear on that, but this fits with what we understand about how inflammation can make things worse, including in the brain.

“Alzheimer’s is a disease that develops over decades. An infection like Covid or some other medical problem can push a person who’s on the edge of clinical dementia over to the point that it’s clinically apparent this person has a problem and needs more help.”

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