New, unpublished data show impact of COVID-19 in patients with neurological disorders

Renowned neuroscientist Ettore Beghi presents findings in Special Lecture on Neuro COVID, October 4, 2021, World Congress of Neurology 2021

New data show for the first time a link between COVID-19 and its worsening impact on patients with existing neurological conditions. The 25th Biennial presented newly published research identifying clear profiles of COVID-19 patients with neurological disorders and manifestations World Congress of Neurology (WCN) 2021 by world-renowned researchers Ettor Beghi, Professor of Neuroepidemiology at the University of Milan, Italy. Beghi’s “Special Lecture on Neuro COVID” presentation discussed both published and newly published findings from the European Academy of Neurology (ENERGY) COVID-19 registry, of which Beghi is a member.

Most of the patients studied by neurologists and represented in ENERGY have a history of neurological disorders or have certain demographic characteristics that put them at higher risk for these complications. In this case, we have found that the virus is acting as a deteriorating actor. COVID-19 deteriorates patients’ functional abilities, putting them at greater risk of premature death, prolonged hospitalization, and persistent neurological symptoms during follow-up.

Ettor Beghi

It is now clear that a person with a history of vascular problems such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure is much more likely to have a stroke during the acute stage of COVID-19 than a person without that history.

The data also show that patients with neurodegenerative diseases tend to have more severe COVID cases and poorer outcomes than those who don’t.

“The COVID-19 virus causes neurological symptoms in patients that persist over time, even after the worst of COVID is over,” Beghi said. “By tracking registrants over time, we can collect data on how many have recovered from their symptoms, how many have ongoing symptoms, and how many have new symptoms.”

The European Academy of Neurology is not solely interested in the neurological effects of COVID or in establishing a COVID registry. The National Institutes of Health is funding a larger registry in The United States. ENERGY also worked with another US-based registry to collect and analyze data on predictors of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. National registers, including those in Spain, Portugal, that United Kingdom and Italy, some of which are collaborating with ENERGY to compare data.

In the long term, Beghi hopes to continue ENERGY’s research long after COVID-19 is over. He cites difficulties in scaling up the initiative, since this work has been supported almost entirely by the voluntary and unpaid collaboration of centers in 28 countries affiliated with the European Academy of Neurology.

There are no formal funding mechanisms for ENERGY. Other leaders of the initiative are concerned. These include Claudia Bassetti, President of the European Academy of Neurology and Professor of Neurology, University of Berne, Switzerland; Raimund Helbok, Professor of Neurology, University of Innsbruck, Austria; and Elena Moro, Professor of Neurology, University of Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France. They believe the registry needs to be maintained and are looking at ways to secure funding.

We must learn the lessons we have learned from COVID to prepare for the future. Even after this pandemic is over, new ones may appear in the future. Having a system that can run immediately in the presence of a new virus is useful.

Ettor Beghi

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