Investigating neurological symptoms of infectious diseases like COVID-19 leading to a deeper understanding of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease

Front Neurol. 2022 Dec 7:13:968193. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2022.968193. eCollection 2022.


Apart from common respiratory symptoms, neurological symptoms are prevalent among patients with COVID-19. Research has shown that infection with SARS-CoV-2 accelerated alpha-synuclein aggregation, induced Lewy-body-like pathology, caused dopaminergic neuron senescence, and worsened symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). In addition, SARS-CoV-2 infection can induce neuroinflammation and facilitate subsequent neurodegeneration in long COVID, and increase individual vulnerability to PD or parkinsonism. These findings suggest that a post-COVID-19 parkinsonism might follow the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to prevent a possible post-COVID-19 parkinsonism, this paper reviewed neurological symptoms and related findings of COVID-19 and related infectious diseases (influenza and prion disease) and neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer's disease, PD and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and discussed potential mechanisms underlying the neurological symptoms and the relationship between the infectious diseases and the neurodegenerative disorders, as well as the therapeutic and preventive implications in the neurodegenerative disorders. Infections with a relay of microbes (SARS-CoV-2, influenza A viruses, gut bacteria, etc.) and prion-like alpha-synuclein proteins over time may synergize to induce PD. Therefore, a systematic approach that targets these pathogens and the pathogen-induced neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration may provide cures for neurodegenerative disorders. Further, antiviral/antimicrobial drugs, vaccines, immunotherapies and new therapies (e.g., stem cell therapy) need to work together to treat, manage or prevent these disorders. As medical science and technology advances, it is anticipated that better vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 variants, new antiviral/antimicrobial drugs, effective immunotherapies (alpha-synuclein antibodies, vaccines for PD or parkinsonism, etc.), as well as new therapies will be developed and made available in the near future, which will help prevent a possible post-COVID-19 parkinsonism in the 21st century.

Keywords: COVID-19; Parkinson's disease; neurodegenerative disorders; neurological symptoms; post-COVID-19 parkinsonism management and prevention.

Publication types

  • Review