Virus: Underestimated Impact?

Almost one year ago, in a post entitled “Connecting More Dots: Brain shrinkage and Covid-19”. I discussed an MRI study based on MRI scans stored in a Biobank in UK and retesting of patients with and without Covid infection. The results showed brain mass loss especially in the frontal lobe area linked to decision making and emotional control.

On thinking about these research findings, there were two obvious questions:

  1. Is this damage in any way associated with the increase in violence and in motor vehicle accidents that we have seen during and following the pandemic?
  2. If the Covid virus could do this, could other viruses do the same thing

We still don’t know the answer to the first question. Personally, I believe if people recognized the possibility of damage and considered that before acting, we might have fewer accidents and violence. However, I have not seen any research that has addressed this.

For good or ill, we have some new information on the second question. A high level statistical analysis suggests that other viruses including the common flu can impact brain function. The viruses identified as potentially impacting the brain include flu, encephalitis, meningitis, herpes, hepatitis, pneumonia, and shingles. The diseases to which these viruses appear to be linked include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, dementia, and MS.

The statistical analysis isn’t proof positive of a causal relationship. We won’t have that until we understand the process by which a virus produces damage. In the case of Covid, the test-and-control, before-and-after design of the study is pretty ironclad. We don’t have comparable evidence as yet for these other viruses. Basically, until now, no one thought to look.

Conversely, since we know that one virus can cause this damage, there’s no reason to believe that the others can’t.

Skeptics have claimed that the world shouldn’t take the Covid virus more seriously than other viruses. The opposite may in fact be true. We may need to take more familiar viruses much more seriously than we have.



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