The gift that keeps on giving. COVID and Parkinson’s disease

At the ABC:

COVID-19 can cause worrying neurological symptoms like a loss of smell and taste, but Australian scientists are warning the damage the virus causes to the brain may also lead to more serious conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

It has happened before.

Five years after the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 1900s, there was up to a three-fold increase in the incidence of Parkinson’s disease.

Kevin Barnham from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health said he believed a similar “silent wave” of neurological illness would follow this pandemic.

“Parkinson’s disease is a complex illness, but one of the causes is inflammation, and the virus helps to drive that inflammation,” he said.

“Once the inflammation gets into the brain, it starts a cascade of events which can ultimately lead to Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers outlined their concerns in a study published today in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

The process is known as the “two-hit hypothesis”.

The brain gets inflamed from something like a virus, then something else comes along later causing more damage and eventually Parkinson’s disease develops.

“Evidence is already suggesting the triggers for Parkinson’s disease are there with this virus,” Professor Barnham said.

Medical experts said it was too early to know how many people who had COVID-19 would go on to develop the disease.

“I believe the risk is real,” Professor Barnham said.

“We can’t put a number on it, but with 30 million people worldwide affected by this virus, even a small shift in the risk of getting Parkinson’s would lead to many more people being diagnosed.

“We know COVID-19 has short-term effects, but we are realising more about the potential long-term effects.”

Head of the cognition ageing laboratory at the University of Adelaide, Lyndsey Collins-Praino, said it was not a certainty every person who had COVID-19 would develop Parkinson’s disease.

She said researchers needed a better understanding of just how people with COVID-19 were likely to develop the disease in the future.

“We need to know what that may look like and how symptoms may change and evolve over time,” Dr Collins-Praino said.

“We need to understand not just how to treat the virus itself, but to understand what challenges survivors may face, given how many people may find themselves in that camp.”

Smell-test screening to pick up early signs of disease

In people with Parkinson’s disease, problems such as a loss of smell can show up 10 years before they have any physical symptoms.

Researchers from the Florey Institute are working on a smell-test screening tool that could be rolled out to everyone over the age of 50.

It would measure your ability to smell properly and test the function of other parts of the brain, the results of which may signal early indications of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Collins-Praino said early diagnosis could lead to early intervention and stop brain cells from dying off.

“The earlier we can detect [the damage], the better our chances of really effective and meaningful therapeutics for individuals,” she said.

Six million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease and the figure is expected to double in the next 20 years.

“Add to that the silent wave from COVID, and those numbers will explode and there will be serious societal and economic consequences from that,” Professor Barnham said.

Florey Institute scientist and co-author of the paper released today, Leah Beauchamp, said there was an opportunity to get ready.

“We weren’t prepared the last time — more than 100 years ago. We have the tools and we can get ahead of this now,” she said.

Parkinson’s ‘wasn’t anything we had considered’

Getting an earlier diagnosis would have helped Melbourne woman Sheenagh Bottrell.

One of the first signs something was amiss was when her friend noticed she was limping while they were out on their regular walks.

“I had already had problems with my shoulder, but I really didn’t worry about it very much,” Ms Bottrell said.

“But my friend was constantly at me to go and see the doctor.”

After seeing a neurologist, Ms Bottrell, 47, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011.

“It was a shock. It wasn’t anything we had considered,” she said.

Ms Bottrell said if she had been diagnosed earlier, she might have done things differently.

“I am fortunate that I have mild symptoms, but for people who have tremors, earlier detection and getting onto good treatment early would be much better,” she said.

Doctors advised Ms Bottrell not to let the illness take over her life and her thinking.

“I have tried to get on with life and not let it get in the way,” she said.

The Florey Institute has applied to the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund for a grant to move to the next phase of testing the smell screening tool.

 

David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)

Comments

  1. Levy on over 70's super to pay for COVID

    How many people will die due to poor diet, too much alcohol in Australia this year?

    • That is completely irrelevant. Comparing existing conditions or issues against something new, something that adds to the sum of existing.

      What people like you seem to be bulletproof against is the fact that you dont understand that you can NOT compare against something that is an addition!

      You are NOT swapping common cold for Covid. It is an addition to your common cold and the flu. In really simple math each one of them has some chance of death or long term consequences regardless how low, Covid is an increase to this overall value.

      If Covid becomes a long-term problem then YOUR life-expectancy is about to be become seriously downgraded!

      • Levy on over 70's super to pay for COVID

        Don’t be scurred.

        Death rate has collapsed all over Europe.

        Just pretend you live in a malaria, dengue or TB zone.

    • Spot on. Same with smoking illnesses, not only do we not shut down the community for these things, our governments allow their existence and take a large helping of tax revenue with them.

      When we start being more serious about coronary/heart diseases, diabetes, preventable cancers and not just a myopic focus on a COVID then we can really have a proper debate.

      • Ever tried to advise fat people to eat less? Any idea how much money, time and effort has been spent on smoking reduction?

        • @Kateged

          Yes I have, family members who suffer from being overweight. Some change, some dont. Nearly $9.8B tax revenue was collected in Australia for tobacco products in FY15/16. We collect revenue on a product which knowingly kills people and then have to spend copious amounts more trying to stop them from using said product and treating the diseases which come from them.

          COVID policies in Australia have been about reducing harm and deaths right? So, have you ever had the government force you out of the house to do exercise if you are overweight? Ever had 23% of your Australian peers become unemployed because of smoking?

          If we care about reducing harm and reducing deaths we have to look at all items that cause these outcomes holistically and not myopically focus on 1 issue to the exclusion of all others. Never in modern times has such drastic action been taken over 1 specific illness in Western Societies while ignoring all manner of other items which cause more harm and more deaths.

          • RobotSenseiMEMBER

            I think it’s fair to say that younger people have a higher chance of dying from COVID than they do from cardiovascular disease. Heck, even many older people have a higher chance of dying from COVID thank cardiovascular disease in the next year.

            But sure, let’s take this particular moment in the grips of a pandemic to worry about fast food and smoking.

          • Try to price the time and the effort. Combined with the excise increases the effect on smoking reduction has been remarkable. They have created a reducing tax base. You seem to have not noticed 30 years of preventative medicine.The myopia is yours. Without it something like your 23% of working men would have missed their retirement party due to death or disability.
            A pandemic occurs and authorities are required to act on the run with limited information. The true infectivity, death and significant mortality rates won’t be known for at least another 6 months. That’s how long it takes to sort crap data from good. Twitter has born many an epidemiological and virology expert and they are as vocal as the true experts are quiet because the data set is incomplete.
            Being unemployed is shocking but so is being dead(apparently) and as this fairly lightweight article and others much more substantial suggest is being disabled from an infectious disease, the true impacts of which are still not properly understood. Much to the bewilderment of the “now” mindset.

      • I heard on the ABC (wireless) this morning some or other expert opining on how many people had died as a result of bushfire smoke from last season (the numbers are unprecedented, apparently). When the presenter asked what the people had actually died of it turned out that the vast majority had pre-existing conditions and the smoke inhalation over the bushfire period was responsible for exacerbating these and tipping the aforementioned people over the edge. Heart attack was the primary cause of death.

        I’m beginning to think that the general condition of our population is not great and that sub-optimal lifestyles these past few decades are coming back to bite the many who’ve not looked after themselves as well as they might. I think the bushfire report plus Covid is starting a shine a bright light on this issue. It’s a warning shot of sorts.

  2. Much like masks, the acceptance of the science around C19 is not a political statement, but an IQ test. Lots of MBers are failing that test.

    If you are to the right of the political spectrum, and you have a certain paucity of neural connectivity, you are fertile ground for conspiracies about C19, global warming, and any number of other issues, both scientific and non-scientific.

    Is Political Conservatism a Mild Form of Insanity?

      • ..you live in a mental echo-chamber or something?

        COVID is additional to your current normal exposure of common cold and flu, so the overall risk of death and long term consequences for any population is significantly increased.

        And if it becomes a long-term problem then everyone’s life-expectancy just hit a depression and your retirement plans needs a change asap!

        • Levy on over 70's super to pay for COVID

          I can live with that risk.

          People are diagnosed with diseases that will ultimately end their life everyday but they don’t spend the rest of their days living scurred.

          • And there.. you just highlight the problem.. You think this is about you and your feelings. So of course you will take the risk! ..busy over there at the moment? in the troll-factory?

          • Да, но что будет, если водку смешать с простудой, короной и капустными пирожками?

          • Don’t bother arguing with R2M. As far as I can tell he spends his days trembling with fear in his basement and arguing with anyone who doesn’t think we should live under martial law.

    • There’s a lot of neuro research on conservatism and fear. Fear is not bad, it’s just better to realise where you’re at at the moment. Makes you think in concrete black and white terms, us versus them.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      LOLOLOL hey everyone take note of this random weak as p1ss non-member Chinamen CCP troll !! So farkn obvious it ain’t funny.

  3. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    It’s really much more important that we let it rip. Sure, our limited experience and technology from a century ago suggests that those places that let it rip made a disastrous mistake but just let it rip anyway. Real estate and immigration you know? And oh yeah, we’re all going to die anyway and lots of people do self destructive things so just let it rip. Don’t forget the suicides although only those since about March of this year. Those of the unemployed, homeless and hopeless prior to that? Collateral damage because real estate and immigration but I repeat myself.

    • I completely agree with your words of wisdom. While we’re at it how about we make the use of seat belts optional and go back to allowing drink driving. Public safety campaigns, meh, who needs them? We should trust everyone to be responsible and make informed decisions with regards to every type of risk and if it doesn’t turn out ok then that’s just tough luck. I mean I shouldn’t have a job, life guards are an unnecessary expense and a waste of precious lifter’s tax paying dollars, ignore the fact I stopped 7 people from drowning in a pool in 18 months, just let the unlucky drown in a pool.

      • Haywood JablomyMEMBER

        Go ahead and rescue them Popcod. As long as they’re not older than an arbitrary figure of say 70. Or maybe 65? 60 even?
        I’m not sure what the right number is, but there are definitely efficiencies on offer.

  4. Pop yourselves over to NoFX’s Generation Z lyrics for some very f$cking depressing perspective on what we’re up to. Wrecking the joint.

    I think that our kids will probably see
    The end of humanity, as we know it
    Cause this world’s about to blow it
    Will they see what they saw in ancient Rome
    The destruction of the home
    Will they see the end of civility?
    Cause when morality’s been blurred
    Procreation seems absurd
    And human rights and freedom are just words
    That have lost all their meaning
    In a world that is bleeding
    Like an animal in slaughter
    I hope that my daughters never know
    What it feels like to give up
    To know the whole world is corrupt
    To realize they are really on their own
    And there’s no one left who cares
    About the future
    Infected cuts don’t need a suture
    There’s a feeling that the human race
    Has seen the checkered flag
    And the laps that are given
    Are the last ones ever driven
    And everyone who’s still living knows that
    It’s a shame that the earth
    Will live on but can’t give birth
    To a baby planet where we could start over again
    We’ve been divided, we’ve been bled
    Like a chicken without a head
    Running frantically amuck
    Taking but not giving a f–ck
    History is just an alibi
    It’s believing every lie
    Man has ever dared to write
    It’s so much easier to see
    That complex reality
    A lifetime full of misery and blight
    So we tell our daughters and our sons
    That they’re not the final ones
    To see this planet as a decent place to live
    We use our telescope
    To give them faith, to give them hope
    Anything to help them cope
    With their future cause there’s no alternative
    Kings and queens rule the land
    There’s more and more lines drawn in the sand
    Pawns are crooks, Castles are rooks
    It’s too bad the good books
    Written for the sub-classes to introduce morality
    Had nothing to do with reality
    But then again, who would have ever read them?
    We read the par-Quran for lunch
    Eat old testaments for a snack
    And a little Lulla-bible before bed
    There’s no more points of view when your only thought is food
    (It’s sad I’m gonna see)
    The bible has been replaced with a survival guide (The end of history)
    That uses perishables instead of parables
    Because there’s no stories left to preach (We don’t wanna be)
    There’s no life lessons is left to teach anyone, why bother?
    (The Generation Z)
    Who are we? Are we the intellects or the insects?
    We’re not the ones who will ever know the answer (We don’t wanna see)
    It’s impossible for us to imagine what is right in front of us
    (A species you and me)
    I guess that’s what makes us think we’re human
    But being human only lets us see a little farther than animals
    (The end of history)
    Feel depression from spending most of your life working?
    (The Generation Z)
    Try chemicals! Chemicals make everything better (The end of history)
    Hate, love, morality They’re just chemical reactions
    (The Generation Z)
    Are we just chemically imbalanced ants on chemically fueled rants?
    (Generation Z, Generation Z)
    It really just comes down to s–x and power (Generation Z)
    I bet the last man standing, the last human on this planet
    (Generation Z, Generation Z)
    The last person on the earth doesn’t give a sh—t (Generation Z)
    Or has any idea that he or most likely she is the last one
    (Generation Z, Generation Z)
    The last person on this planet
    Will f—ck the dead and die thinking not about why didn’t anyone care
    But why her life was so unfair
    It’s time, it needs to be said, I’m sorry to be the one to inform you
    But man and woman kind has unfortunately been pronounced dead

  5. This blog used to deliver honest news from many angles. There has been tremendous positive news regarding covid-19 over the last 6 months in terms of how it is not that deadly, how people have pre-existing t-cell immunity, how it is slow in mutating and many other points. This blog just reports the negative headlines that often have no credibility… You should consider the damage being done to your own brand

  6. Could possibly be something in it. It’s a new virus. Maybe this will be real.

    But with millions of cases globally, some fairly rare diseases are going to turn up a few weeks or months someone was infected.

    One in a thousand long shots will happen thousands of times with millions of cases.

    There will be substantial reporting bias.
    A person getting Parkinson’s isn’t news. It’s normal
    A person getting Parkinson’s 3 months after COVID is big news.

    Maybe someone in the early stages of Parkinson’s is more susceptible to COVID.

    Or maybe COVID causes you to see a doctor and your very early Parkinson’s gets diagnosed.

    And there are vested interests. Parkinson’s is bad luck. A complication after an infection where your employer didn’t take all precautions may be compensable.

    Lots of confounders which will need to be teased out.

    Time will tell.

    • Maybe it’s because everyone who has a problem with it is about 85 so maybe they had Parkinson’s anyway.
      Just to be safe we should all be locked down though.

    • As soon as the fear subsides a little some new piece of c..p story appears that is used to terrify people again. Can’t let the lock us down narrative lessen as people might wake up and start to ask questions.

  7. That stoking of fear has been the pattern throughout this.

    Repeated bad news out of China
    Bizarre early claims it was”getting stronger”
    Then it was becoming more able to spread
    Then lots of new strains. Including at least 3-4 “dangerous mutating strains”
    Then incubation periods lasting 28 days
    Then positive swabs for months
    Then reinfection with positive swabs after negative swabs
    Then leaked photos of thousands of cremation urns
    Then science fiction clips of China driving trucks all over the countryside making China safe 1 square km at a time
    Then a social media campaign aimed at Italy
    Then leaked photos of thousands of cremation urns ordered to deal with the backlog

    The fear was actively stoked by China. Until we learned how to stoke it ourselves.

  8. happy valleyMEMBER

    Nah – AJ and all those other RWNJs at The Australian and Sky after Dark say it’s no worse than the flu and these know-it-alls are always right on everything. If only good old AJ could catch a dose of it just to prove that he is right and also his immortality?

  9. as we discovering kids get it the same as adults – albeit mostly asymptomatic. many of these long term issues affect asymptomatic peeps as well. Lets hope and pray we not going to have a generation of covid kids