More research needed into impact of COVID-19 on neurological conditions

Sam Hunt
Med J Aust 2023; 219 (5): 1.
Published online: 8 September 2023

Australia needs to commit to more research examining the neurological symptoms that can result from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to a Narrative Review published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today.

Doctors and researchers still have much more to learn about the neurological symptoms that can result from COVID-19, according to Dr Robb Wesselingh, a research fellow at the Department of Neuroscience at Monash University.

“An acute COVID-19 infection can lead to neurological symptoms such as a headache, peripheral neuropathies, seizures, encephalitis, Guillain–Barré syndrome, and cerebrovascular disease,” Dr Wesselingh said.

“The majority of COVID-19-related illnesses resolve without treatment, which is reassuring to both doctors and patients, but we need more research and more vigilance about the impact of COVID-19 on the nervous system.”

Monitoring links between COVID-19 and neurological symptoms is difficult because there is no active clinical registry in Australia collecting this information, he said.

“We started an Australian Neuro-COVID-19 Registry at Monash University in mid-2020 but, due to the low incidence of COVID-19 infections during the initial lockdown periods, the registry never developed the momentum or funding that the international registries did and was closed in 2021,” Dr Wesselingh said.

The review in the MJA also stresses the need for more longitudinal studies into the long term impact of COVID-19 on neurological diseases.

“We absolutely need to be doing longitudinal studies in COVID-19 focused on the potential neurological sequelae, and in particular regarding the risk of neurodegenerative illnesses,” Dr Wesselingh said.

“Most neurodegenerative illnesses have a long lead-in time after the likely initiating event or events, so you won’t capture any potential resultant illness unless you follow patients along for at least five to ten years.

“Therefore, we need more research into this area to ensure that people who suffer these devastating symptoms are not left behind.”


Read the Narrative Review in the Medical Journal of Australia

  • Sam Hunt



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