An ambitious research study to investigate the long-term impact of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on the brain was announced at the Alzheimer’s Association international conference (AAIC) 2020 (27–31 July 2020, online).
Although SARS-CoV-2 infection predominantly causes respiratory symptoms, an increasing number of reports suggest that the virus can also affect the CNS. The new study, known as the Alzheimer’s Association international cohort study of chronic neurological sequelae of SARS-CoV-2, will be led by researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association US and the University of Texas Health San Antonio, and will involve >50 centres across >30 countries. The project will also receive technical guidance from the WHO.
“To build a strong foundation for this research, we will align with existing studies — such as the Framingham Heart Study — and clinicians from around the world on how the data is measured and collected,” explained Maria Carrillo, the Chief Science Officer at the Alzheimer’s Association US. “To better understand the impact of the virus on the brain, we will consider cross-study collaborations.”
Further details of the study were given by Gabriel De Erausquin, a Professor at the University of Texas Health San Antonio. Multiple cohorts that include individuals who have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and those who have not will be established by sampling three independent data sources — health registries, hospital discharge records and pre-existing research cohorts. A key focus of the study will be to investigate the influence of factors such as genetic variation, cultural differences and health disparities on the neuropsychiatric sequelae of COVID-19.
Enrolled individuals will be assessed within 6 months of recovery from COVID-19 and a follow-up assessment will be carried out after a further 12 months. Carrillo indicated that the researchers hope to present initial results at the AAIC conference in 2021.
Wood, H. New insights into the neurological effects of COVID-19. Nat. Rev. Neurol. 16, 403 (2020)
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Lemprière, S. SARS-CoV-2 and the brain to be studied long-term. Nat Rev Neurol 16, 522 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41582-020-0405-8