Higher Levels of Neurodegenerative Biomarkers in Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19: Jennifer Frontera, MD


A recent study found that blood markers of brain damage were higher in patients with COVID-19 than in those with Alzheimer disease. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“We looked at those markers, that were primarily collected at the time of admission for COVID hospitalization, and then we correlated them with evidence of neurological injury—clinically, most commonly, encephalopathy, which was the most frequent neurological type of injury that we witnessed in these hospitalized COVID patients.”

A recent study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia evaluated neurological complications in 251 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, with data suggesting neurodegenerative biomarkers in these patients were elevated to, or higher than, levels observed in patients with Alzheimer disease. Investigators also found higher levels of 7 markers of brain damage in patients with COVID-19 with neurological symptoms than those without them, and even higher levels in patients who died in the hospital compared with those who were discharged. 

Findings suggest that there is a significant amount of brain injury for some patients during acute COVID-19 infection, according to lead author Jennifer Frontera, MD, professor of neurology, NYU Langone Grossman School of Medicine. Frontera spoke with NeurologyLive® on the study design, which involved investigators looking at banked blood specimens—collected from hospitalized patients between March 10, 2020, and May 20, 2020—and checking for brain injury markers using single-molecule array technology. 

Frontera further delved into findings pertaining to patients with more severe COVID-19 infection, meaning they were more hypoxic or had multisystem organ failure. These patients, she said, were more likely to have elevations in neurodegenerative biomarkers, as well as symptomatology reflective of neurological injury. 

1. Blood markers of brain damage are higher over short term in patients who have COVID-19 than in people who have Alzheimer’s disease. News release. NYU Langone Health. January 13, 2022. Accessed January 13, 2022. https://nyulangone.org/news/blood-markers-brain-damage-are-higher-over-short-term-patients-who-have-covid-19-people-who-have-alzheimers-disease
2. Frontera JA, Boutajangout A, Masurkar AV, et al. Comparison of serum neurodegenerative biomarkers among hospitalized COVID-19 patients versus non-COVID subjects with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer’s dementia. Alzheimers Dement. Published online January 13, 2022. doi:10.1002/alz.12556.
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