Scientists recently discovered that the neurological effects of long COVID, such as brain fog, are connected to Alzheimer's.

A recent peer-reviewed study conducted by researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology, La Trobe University, and Luxembourg University found that long COVID produces neurological effects similar to neurodegenerative diseases caused by cytotoxic aggregates on the brain.

Published in Nature, the researchers found a buildup of protein fragments from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that formed clumps in the brain, much like the ones previously observed in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The study also showed that the clumps are highly toxic to brain cells. This is strikingly similar to the early stages of neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“What we saw is that they formed very similar amyloid clumps, which are basically just ordered assemblies of protein that are stuck together and considered ‘molecular hallmarks’ of the early stages of neurodegenerative disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Nick Reynolds, from the Institute for Molecular Science at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

The researchers noted that the presence of the amyloid clumps in the brains of long COVID sufferers does not necessarily mean that it is the cause of their reported neurological symptoms. The precise mechanisms that are causing these neurological symptoms still require further exploration.

Fortunately, the grim prognosis may lead to a treatment plan down the line.

“If brain fog is being caused by these amyloid clumps, then there is 30 years of drug development into neurodegenerative disease, which can now be relooked at in the context of COVID-19. Drugs which didn’t quite have a strong enough efficacy to work against very serious and irreversible diseases like Alzheimer’s might have a much better success with brain fog-type symptoms,” Reynolds said.

Dr. Mirren Charnley, a postdoctoral researcher at Swinburne, added that “if further studies are able to prove that the formation of these amyloids is causing long-COVID, then anti-amyloid drugs developed to treat Alzheimer’s might be used to treat some of the neurological symptoms of long-COVID.”

The recent study is believed to be the first that involved people who underwent brain scans before contracting the novel coronavirus.