Long COVID-19 Could Lead to Small Deficits in Cognitive Function: Study

More than 113,000 people were tested for the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Long COVID-19 Could Lead to Small Deficits in Cognitive Function: Study
Monica O’Shea

Long COVID-19 could lead to small impacts on cognitive function and memory, according to researchers at the Imperial College London.

According to their findings, people with unresolved persistent symptoms following COVID-19 had an IQ score that would equate to six points lower than individuals who had never tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, individuals who had previously been infected with COVID-19 but had resolved symptoms, had an IQ equivalent to three points lower on a typical IQ scale. The researchers classified this difference in cognitive score as “small.”

Promisingly, the authors found that individuals with “resolved persistent symptoms” had global cognitive deficits similar to those with shorter duration symptoms.

This suggests that those with unresolved persistent symptoms may have some cognitive improvement once symptoms resolve, the authors noted.

The research involved a cognitive assessment of 112,963 people, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 29.

“In this large community-based study, we found that COVID-19 was associated with longer-term objectively measurable cognitive deficits,” the authors said in the paper.

Long COVID-19 refers to people who have symptoms that last greater than 12 weeks after testing positive for the virus.

The researchers said they found fewer cognitive deficits as the pandemic progressed.

“We also found a small cognitive advantage among participants who had received two or more vaccinations, and a minimal effect of repeat episodes of COVID-19,” the authors said.

The probability of hospitalization due to COVID-19 has progressively decreased over time.

“The cognitive deficits that were observed in participants who had been infected during the first wave of the pandemic, coincided with peak strain on health services and a lack of proven effective treatments at that time,” they said.

Cognitive Impacts of COVID-19

Co-author Professor Adam Hampshire from the Imperial College London Department of Brain Sciences noted the researchers were able to detect minor cognitive deficits.
“The potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on cognitive function have been a concern for the public, healthcare professionals, and policymakers, but until now it has been difficult to objectively measure them in a large population sample,” he said.

“By using our online platform to measure multiple aspects of cognition and memory at large scale, we were able to detect small but measurable deficits in cognitive task performance. We also found that people were likely affected in different ways depending on factors such as illness duration, virus variant, and hospitalisation.”

The authors noted the study had some limitations, including “reliance on subjective reporting to identify persons with persistent symptoms.

“The relationship of our results to the literature about long COVID is complicated owing to a lack of established, defining criteria for post–COVID–19 syndromes. Consequently, we focused on symptoms that had persisted for at least 12 weeks, and we did not depend on a diagnosis of long COVID, which may require clinical assessment,” the authors said.

Vaccine Mandate Struck Down in Australia

Meanwhile, a vaccine mandate for health workers and police has been struck down in the Supreme Court of Queensland after being declared unlawful under section 58 of the Human Rights Act on Feb. 27.
The judge ordered (pdf) that the police commissioner and director-general of Queensland Health were now restrained from taking any enforcement actions or disciplinary proceedings related to mandates.

However, the judge did not address the vaccine’s transmissibility or efficacy in the ruling.

Billionaire Clive Palmer described the ruling as a “great victory for all Australians, especially those who were ”illegally coerced into taking the vaccine.”
“We can celebrate because this is the first precedent in the Western world where a trial has gone the full distance and the court has found a trampling of human rights,” Mr Palmer said.
Further, One Nation Senator described the ruling as an “important victory in the fight for freedom and human rights in Australia.”
“The Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health were wrong to force mandates on their organisations. I said from the start these mandates were wrong. I said from the start they contravened Section 51 part 23-A of the Constitution, which prohibits civil conscription through the provision of medical services,” Ms. Hanson said.
The Federal government has accepted the advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on the country’s national 2024 vaccination program.
In new advice published on Feb. 29, ATAGI said it recommends a dose of COVID-19 vaccine for adults every six months for adults older than 75.

Individuals between 65 and 74, or those Australians who are severely immunocompromised are recommended to take a booster every 12 months.

Health Minister Mark Butler said vaccination remains the most important measure to protect against the risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

Mr. Butler noted vaccines continue to be available free of charge and are “widely available” at general practices and pharmacies.

“COVID-19 vaccines are available every 6 months for older people and adults with severe immunocompromise, and an annual vaccine dose for other adults.”

Monica O’Shea is a reporter based in Australia. She previously worked as a reporter for Motley Fool Australia, Daily Mail Australia, and Fairfax Regional Media.
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