Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Covid on the Brain

Listen to me try to say all these big words in an 8 minute recording:

It's curious how many are completely unaware that Covid is a brain-invasive disease. It's the biggest reason I have to continue keeping the virus out of my body. It's not like a cold or flu that you catch and then recover from. It has staying power. 

I first read about Covid's affect on the brain in National Geographic back in December 2021, when they wrote about how it affects personality, and I wrote about it the following January. One person was "confused, hesitant, nearly catatonic," another "developed impulsive or irrational behaviour," and others "arrived at the hospital with severe depression, hallucinations, or paranoia." The article reports, 

"Now, almost two years into the pandemic, it's become clear that neurological problems from Covid-19 can linger or intensify. After recovering from the virus, an alarming number of patients remain shrouded in brain fog, suffering from anxiety or depression, unable to think straight or hold on to memories, and fumbling for words. . . . A study of 395 people who were hospitalized with Covid-19 found that 91% had cognitive issues, fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, or struggled with routine activities six months after they returned home."

Remember, that was in 2021.

At the time they said, "little is known about the mechanisms behind many of these symptoms," but newer studies confirmed speculation that the glial cells, the 90% of our brain that provides neurons with insulation and structure and enables the transmission of messages, become inflamed and fuse together into a mass that's all but useless, physically disabling parts of the brain.

Daniel Brittain Dugger, an HIV and Covid advocate in the states who promotes using HIV know-how for Covid patients, recently wrote on Twitter about Covid's impact on the brain, responding to a recent long-term study indicating that the effects of Covid-induced cognitive decline are permanent. He said:

"Needless to say, the greatest display of sheer incompetence has imperiled that which our economy relies: our intellectual capital. How am I able to confidently state we live among those who dare not suffer from further cognitive insult after a SARS-CoV-2 infection?

It is quite easy, actually. Kenneth Podell proved his prescience in September, 2021, when he penned this journal article with others." 

The article was actually e-published a year earlier, September 2020, and published in the Journal of Molecular Neurobiology in February 2021. And here are some big words from Brittain Dugger explaining what Podell said. I'll get it down to a nutshell at the end:

"It has been well established that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can result in an encephalopathy/encephalitis. The mechanism of this brain pathology can be a result of opportunistic infections of the brain or primary HIV encephalopathy, where HIV affects the brain directly. The degree of cognitive impairment may range from very mild to full-blown AIDS dementia complex (ADC). ADC is usually seen at advanced symptomatic stages and is associated with low CD4+ T cell count. It has become increasingly rare with the advent of effective pharmacotherapies for HIV. A milder cognitive impairment, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND), may be present already at early disease stages. Neuroimaging studies of HIV patients have found that the frontal lobes, striatum, and hippocampi are particularly impacted. Cognitive impairment in HIV encephalopathy is associated with a range of symptoms, including mood and personality changes, executive deficit, memory impairment, and motor/psychomotor slowing. As discussed above, the hippocampi have been implicated as a target of viral encephalopathies in COVID-19, SARS, HSV encephalopathy, and HIV encephalopathy. Hippocampal pathology usually leads to significant memory impairment, which has important ramifications in terms of the severity of overall long-term cognitive impairment." 

What does all that mean? That Covid affects the brain like AIDS does. Brittain Dugger further explains,

"One can draw on the experience with an HIV/AIDS epidemic. The initial understanding of HIV/AIDS was that of the virus affecting the immune system by depleting T cells, which resulted in opportunistic infections of multiple organs, including the brain. However, it did not take long to discover that the disease could also attack the brain directly, which resulted in long-term cognitive impairment. Subsequently, HIV encephalopathy and AIDS dementia complex leading to long-term cognitive impairment were discovered. 

Based on the emerging literature, it is reasonable to hypothesize a SOMEWHAT SIMILAR scenario may unfold in relationship to COVID-19. He hit nail on the head with his analysis. Both SARS-CoV-2 and HIV have proven the capability of depleting the CD4 compartment. . . . Every single cell type that constitutes the Central Nervous System reservoir in HIV, represents the same with SARS-CoV-2, with microglia being the predominant cell type. 

By only congratulating the authors of these studies for their 'hard work,' instead of taking decisive action, folks have forgotten that in HIV, the strategy is prevention of neurological insult, not curing it. Through the rapid intervention of antivirals in HIV, you immediately arrest cortical thinning, cortical atrophy, prevent hypometabolism from developing, and prevent massive reservoir expansion. All of these are taking place in folk's brains. While some have suggested this be looked at from an ME/CFS perspective, they ignore the work of Dr. Apple [in a study from January 2022]. She relied upon the test for HIV Associated Neurocognitive Decline. 70% of the control arm, not reporting any difficulty, were diagnosed with the functional equivalent of Asymptomatic Neurocognitive Impairment. For those with ANI, there is a two to six fold increase in further disease progression: Mild Neurocognitive Decline, followed by the functional equivalent of AIDS Dementia Complex. 

The same institution that conducted the study above, also issued guidance on the management of HAND. Quite easy to point out how we botched this. The primary medical intervention at this time is to achieve viral suppression and a CD4 count greater than 200 with ART [antiretroviral therapy]. Lack of treatment is the biggest risk factor for cognitive decline. Medications with strong anticholinergic -- anti colin NER gic -- side effects, such as sedating antihistamines, barbiturates, narcotics, benzodiazepines, gastrointestinal and urinary antispasmodics. Folks surely aren't using Benadryl for MCAS, are they? As you can see, we had everything at our disposal to prevent a large number of folks experiencing a decline in their CD4 population, cognition, and creatine clearance rates. All that was lacking was a willingness to prevent it. God Bless The United States of 22 million Anosmics heading to Alzheimer's."

A bit of explanation of that last line: the loss of smell (anosmia) can be the first sign of the virus directly affecting the brain. 

So, what this all means, studies dating back to 2020 made it clear that Covid affects the brain like AIDS does, not just affecting the brain by affecting the immune system, but attacking it directly. But at the first sign of HIV, antiviral drugs are given to prevent the attack on the brain. With Covid, we're just not doing that. We should be, and we could be, but it's not happening.

Therefore, until that happens, it is VITAL that people avoid getting Covid at all costs. Typically, for most people "at all costs" means wearing a mask in public and avoiding bars and restaurants. I'd like to think we can do it.

ETA from tern

"If you haven't noticed that many people around you are cognitively damaged, then I have bad news for you."

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