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Research shows post-COVID 'brain fog' due to damaging enzymes

Researchers find that the coronavirus makes an enzyme in your body that damages tiny blood vessels in the brain, depriving cells of oxygen-rich blood.

NEW ORLEANS — You've heard people who recover from COVID-19 talk about having lingering brain fog for months.

The causes have been a mystery to the medical community, but now there are new answers. And there are also new, free studies for people with long COVID symptoms.

New science out today in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience is shedding light on brain fog after COVID-19. Researchers find that the coronavirus makes an enzyme in your body, that damages tiny blood vessels in the brain, depriving cells of oxygen-rich blood.

Tulane Neurologist Dr. Michele Longo says the new information helps people suffering from post-COVID brain fog know there is a real biological change causing their symptoms.

“If you're being told that this is your anxiety and depression, and it's just been a really tough year during the pandemic, and that's why you're struggling, that may not be the whole picture,” said Dr. Michele Longo, Assistant Professor of Neurology in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Tulane.

And that new knowledge could lead to future medication to block that damaging enzyme. Dr. Longo says there continues to be a high demand for appointments at the Tulane post-COVID neurology clinic. 

People come in struggling with:

LONG COVID SYMPTOMS

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Racing heart rates
  • loss of taste, smell
  • Tingling in hands, feet

People who were asymptomatic,  meaning they have no symptoms when they had the virus, also have long COVID health problems after they recover, according to Dr. Longo.  

She says long COVID patients are:

  • All socioeconomic backgrounds
  • All ages including children, college-age, adults, and the elderly
  • ICU survivors to no symptoms
  • With and without previous health conditions. Some are even healthy professional athletes.

Right now doctors can only treat the symptoms, not cure them. And it appears there are multiple causes for long COVID.

“I suspect that there won't be one single medication that takes care of these symptoms for everyone,” said Dr. Longo looking towards the future.

Tulane has many studies looking at long COVID. and soon its doctors will join Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and LSU Health in New Orleans, in an upcoming National Institutes of Health study to investigate the mysteries of long COVID. They will try to figure out why some people get well, but so many others who survive, stay sick for so long.

Sign up for clinical trials:

  • Tulane 504-988-0200
  • LSU Health: 504-568-8088
  • Pennington 225-763-3000

More on the RECOVER study for long COVID:

https://www.pbrc.edu/news/media/2021/long-covid-study.aspx

More on the RECOVER study for long COVID:

https://recovercovid.org/

More on the study published in Nature about long COVID brain fog:

www.nature.com/articles/