July 23, 2021
Alzheimer’s disease raises the risk that someone infected with the novel coronavirus will come down with severe Covid and die, according to a new report. Among those admitted to the hospital for Covid, those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia were at threefold risk of dying from the infection than their peers without dementia. Those with Alzheimer’s who were 80 or older were six times more likely to die from severe disease compared to younger people.
The findings underscore the special importance of vaccination against Covid for anyone with Alzheimer’s disease as well as those who care for them. Covid vaccines are now widely available for anyone age 12 or older in the United States, and they have been shown to be safe and highly effective in protecting against coronavirus, including emerging variant strains of the virus. Anyone concerned about safety issues and the Covid vaccine should discuss it with their doctors.
For the study, Brazilian researchers analyzed health records from nearly 13,000 men and women 65 and older living in Britain. The data included detailed information on preexisting medical conditions and Covid, so the researchers were able to isolate the effects of Covid specifically on hospitalization rates and deaths.
“We found that all causes of dementia are risk factors for severity and death in Covid-19, and that these risks are more pronounced for Alzheimer’s patients,” said the study’s lead author, Sergio Verjobski-Almeida, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Other studies had already shown that Alzheimer’s disease is a risk factor for developing severe Covid, along with other medical conditions like heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Covid also tends to affect older people more severely, and most Alzheimer’s patients are older. People in their 80s have been found to be at a 20-fold higher risk of developing severe disease than people in their 50s. Many people with Alzheimer’s disease also live in nursing homes, where the disease may easily spread.
Analysis of the data revealed that all causes of dementia, and especially Alzheimer’s disease, were independent risk factors for developing severe Covid and dying from it, regardless of age.
“Some factor that hasn’t yet been identified increases the predisposition of Alzheimer’s patients to progress to severe Covid-19 and die from the viral disease,” Dr. Verjovski said. “The results of our study point to a need for special attention to these patients when hospitalized.”
The authors speculated that one reason may be that Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to chronic inflammation and a dampened immune response, which may increase susceptibility to coronavirus. Alzheimer’s may also increase the likelihood that the virus enters the central nervous system more easily.
By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.
Source: Ana C. Tahira, Sergio Verjovsky-Ameida, Sergio T. Ferreira: “Dementia is an age-independent risk factor for severity and death in COVID-19 inpatients.” Alzheimer’s and Dementia, June 2021