Severe Covid may cost survivors 10 IQ points, study finds

Severe Covid-19 may cause long-lasting cognitive impairment, similar to how much brainpower 70-year-olds typically have lost compared to age 50, a new study found, adding to preliminary evidence that infections may inhibit survivors’ intellectual capabilities.

The study of 46 patients, who were assessed six to ten months after being hospitalized, showed slower and less accurate responses than what was expected for their age and demographic profile. Those patients who required ventilators and organ support scored even worse.

The effect was sudden, as it was the equivalent of aging 20 years intellectually within the span of a few months.

The impairment is equivalent to losing about 10 IQ points, said co-author Adam Hampshire, a professor of restorative neurosciences at Imperial College London, in an interview. He added that his team observed a very slow recovery among the case subjects, if any at all.

“That will have an impact on the person’s daily function, their ability to work and go on about their lives.”

In England alone, over 40,000 Covid-19 survivors could encounter these cognitive difficulties, according to estimates by the research team. That’s a conservative estimate, Hampshire said.

The study, which was published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, adds to a growing body of research that suggests that people who have recovered from Covid-19, including patients with milder symptoms, may struggle with cognitive functions like problem-solving and could have difficulties finding words or possibly suffer “brain fog”.

Read: Government needs to shift Covid rules in South Africa: CEO

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Severe Covid may cost survivors 10 IQ points, study finds