Newly Reported Case Links Deadly Brain Disease to COVID-19 Infection
A recent case report published in the American Journal of Case Reports has identified a potential link between a deadly brain disease and COVID-19. The report detailed the case of a 62-year-old man, who unfortunately succumbed to the disease. The man was admitted to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital Center in the US with rapidly progressive dementia, difficulty walking, and myoclonus.
According to the report, the patient had experienced symptoms two months prior to being admitted to the hospital. These symptoms included diffuse bradykinesia, drooling, and dementia. He also had difficulty walking. The man was still functioning normally at work until he was found at home on the floor after a fall, unable to walk and confabulating, with intermittent rapid involuntary jerks involving one limb at a time, which are suggestive of myoclonic jerks.
Upon admission, the patient tested positive for COVID-19, although he was afebrile and asymptomatic except for typical respiratory manifestations. The doctors established a diagnosis of probable Prion disease (PrD) based on protein detection in the cerebral spinal fluid and the clinical presentation of rapidly progressive dementia with bradykinesia and myoclonus.
Despite medical intervention, the patient’s condition continued to rapidly deteriorate, ultimately resulting in his death. The corresponding author of the report, Merjona Saliaj from the Department of Internal Medicine at Queens Hospital, highlighted the potential correlation between COVID-19 and neurodegenerative conditions, particularly prion disorders.
However, Saliaj notes that there is currently no definite evidence beyond coincidental findings to establish the correlation. Further studies may be required to determine if such a connection truly exists. Prion diseases, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), are rapidly progressive dementias and typically require multiple diagnostic criteria to fulfill a probable diagnosis.
While the definite diagnosis for PrD is based on an isolated brain biopsy, there has been ongoing debate regarding the possible infectious nature of PrD. Viral infections have commonly been implicated in various neurodegenerative conditions, and misfolded proteins associated with PrD have the potential to act as infective agents.
Numerous case reports have already discussed the neurological manifestations of COVID-19, and neurodegeneration has been documented in the scientific literature. Parkinsonism, in particular, has been associated with COVID-19. The report cited four cases in the literature that were comparable to the featured case, where prion disorders occurred after a COVID-19 infection.
Saliaj highlighted that while some cases presented with neurologic symptoms alongside COVID-19 manifestations, others only developed CJD-related symptoms after two weeks or two months following upper-respiratory symptoms.
With early symptoms of CJD including memory problems, behavioral changes, poor coordination, and visual disturbances, it becomes increasingly important to recognize and understand the potential links between COVID-19 and neurodegenerative conditions. However, further research and investigation are needed to establish a concrete correlation.