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New St Vincent's research provides hope for Long Covid patients

June 2022

It is estimated that between 10 and 20 per cent of Australians infected with Covid-19 will go on to suffer from Long Covid, an often debilitating condition that persists for prolonged periods of time following a Covid diagnosis. For some, the condition stops them from returning to normal daily responsibilities such as work or school.  

One of the most common symptoms amongst Long Covid patients is brain fog and cognitive impairment. Professor Bruce Brew, Head of Peter Duncan Neurosciences Unit at St Vincent’s and his team of researchers at AMR, have identified the nerve toxin causing this phenomenon.

This discovery signals the opportunity for trialling potential treatments, including those already used for other conditions, such as those affected by cancer or epilepsy. 

Long Covid patients sometimes suffer “slow thought processes and confusion which is very similar to a Traumatic Brain Injury”, said Prof Brew. “One vaccinated patient who caught Covid used to run a successful business but is no longer able to work because he was no longer able to understand the contracts that were being drawn up”. 

Of the Long Covid patients studied presenting with cognitive issues, the research has found a direct link to a particular pathway in the human body responsible for creating energy within the body, balancing mood and controlling the immune system. Once excessively activated, such as during an infection, neurological effects are triggered, and nerve cells are injured or killed. 

These findings will enable early phase trials of existing medications that target the same neural pathway, and could potentially help in the management of some of the most vexing symptoms of Long Covid. 

“I think that the public have not been fully informed (about the long term effects of Covid),” Prof Brew said.

“The focus has been on deaths and ICU admissions, they are the parameters by which they judge whether Covid is still a problem or not,” he said.

“The functional impact of milder cases of Covid on patients’ wellbeing and their economic contribution to society has been completely missed. Hopefully our work can make some inroads in reducing the significant impost brain fog is having for an increasingly sizeable component of our community.”

 

Watch the 9 News Sydney report below.

 

 

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