COVID-19 linked to severe brain conditions: UK scientists

Specialists in London have linked COVID-19 to a rare form of brain inflammation. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2020

COVID-19 linked to severe brain conditions: UK scientists

  • Nine cases in the UK capital are said to have shown signs of “concerning” disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem)
  • The rare form of brain inflammation involves swelling of the brain and spinal cord

LONDON: Specialists in London have linked COVID-19 to a rare form of brain inflammation. Nine cases in the UK capital are said to have shown signs of “concerning” disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), which involves swelling of the brain and spinal cord, leading to weakness in the limbs, loss of balance, fatigue and drowsiness.
So far, the cases have only occurred in adults with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, and represent the number the UK would expect to see nationally over the course of five months.
Adem is usually triggered by a viral infection, causing immune cells to attack the protective coating covering the nervous system.
COVID-19 was not detected in the brain or spinal fluid of any of the patients, according to the study, but evidence suggested that brain inflammation had been caused by an immune response to the disease.
Adem is not the only disorder linked to COVID-19. A study in the medical journal Brain has so far linked the virus to 43 different cases in the UK, including a brain disorder known as encephalopathy with delirium, which has so far affected 10 patients, and which causes confusion and even psychosis and seizures.
“We know from previous viruses that you can get neurological (consequences), so I don’t think we should be terribly surprised, but the range of clinical complications is broad,” said Dr. Ross Paterson of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, who co-authored the study published in Brain.
“To have cases of delirium with psychosis, completely out of proportion with the respiratory virus, is unusual. The cases we are seeing are perhaps just a small snapshot of the severe end of the spectrum,” he added.
“Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause. Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes.”
Patterson’s co-author Dr. Michael Zandi, also of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, said: “We identified a higher than expected number of people with neurological conditions such as brain inflammation, which did not always correlate with the severity of respiratory symptoms.”
Zandi added: “We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had COVID-19. Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic … remains to be seen.”


Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”