Coronavirus disease 2019 and neurodegenerative disease: what will the future bring?

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2021 Mar 1;34(2):177-185. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000688.


Purpose of review: Over 70 million people worldwide, including those with neurodegenerative disease (NDD), have been diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to date. We review outcomes in patients with NDD and COVID-19 and discuss the hypothesis that due to putative commonalities of neuropathogenesis, COVID-19 may unmask or trigger NDD in vulnerable individuals.

Recent findings: Based on a systematic review of published literature, patients with NDD, including dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS) make up a significant portion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Such patients are likely to present with altered mental status or worsening of their preexisting neurological symptoms. Patients with NDD and poor outcomes often have high-risk comorbid conditions, including advanced age, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart/lung disease. Patients with dementia including Alzheimer's disease are at higher risk for hospitalization and death, whereas those with preexisting Parkinson's disease are not. MS patients have good outcomes and disease modifying therapies do not increase the risk for severe disease. Viral infections and attendant neuroinflammation have been associated with the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and MS, suggesting that COVID-19 may have the potential to incite or accelerate neurodegeneration.

Summary: Since patients with Alzheimer's disease are at higher risk for hospitalization and death in the setting of COVID-19, additional precautions and protective measures should be put in place to prevent infections and optimize management of comorbidities in this vulnerable population. Further studies are needed to determine whether COVID-19 may lead to an increased risk of developing NDD in susceptible individuals.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • Dementia / complications*
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Parkinson Disease / complications*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors