Relaying Messages About Long-Term Effects of COVID-19: Jennifer Frontera, MD

The professor of neurology at NYU Langone Grossman School of Medicine broke down the knowns and unknowns about long-term changes related to COVID-19, their legitimacy, and associations with neurodegenerative disorders. [WATCH TIME: 6 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 6 minutes

"We know that neurotransmitters affect chronic pain. Treating anxiety, depression, and some of the coronary symptoms that are probably related to that neurotransmitter imbalance is important. I’m hoping that some of these larger studies can break down some of these barriers that are impeding people from getting drugs that are wonderful and work for several different problems. Antiepileptic drugs are developed for seizures, but guess what? They help with peripheral neuropathy and a variety of other factors. Same thing with [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors]."

Despite the ever-growing amount of research related to COVID-19, questions remain about its long-term effects. There has been a consensus that the virus has impacts on neurological function, as shown by numerous studies, including ones done by Jennifer Frontera, MD. Her most recent study evaluated severely infected patients and showed that at least 80% of the cohort developed at least 1 abnormal measure of functional, cognitive, or neuropsychiatric outcome at 12-month follow-up.1

Frontera, a professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Grossman School of Medicine, also serves as a neurointensivist working in the ICU, gaining plenty of experience on the frontlines since the pandemic’s inception. Some of the cognitive changes observed in these patients, commonly referred to as “COVID fog,” has patients questioning whether the virus may increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer disease (AD). Grossman and her colleagues have taken a special interest into this type of research, and despite findings which have shown elevated AD biomarkers in these patients, she doesn’t believe we’re "going to face a pandemic of Alzheimer disease."

She, like many others, are going off their best judgment. At the 2022 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting, April 2-7, in Seattle, Washington, Frontera gave a talk on neurological sequelae and the follow-up of hospitalized and nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19. Following that, she sat down with NeurologyLive® to discuss the facts and fiction about the long-term effects of COVID-19, what research is currently telling clinicians, and whether concerns about development of AD are legitimate. She also stressed the need to begin action towards identifying changes seen in these patients and eliminating barriers to treatments that may have some impact.

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1. Frontera JA, Yang D, Medicherla C, et al. Trajectories of neurologic recovery 12 months after hospitalization for COVID-19: a prospective longitudinal study. Neurology. Published online March 21, 2022. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000200356