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  • A preliminary study noted a number of brain complications such as strokes and psychosis in patients hospitalised with bad cases of Covid-19.
  • The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, is the first systematic review of brain complications since the coronavirus swept the world, its authors said.
  • The study was small and may only show an unrelated correlation between the conditions. But researchers said it is important data for future research.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A preliminary study has found evidence of brain complications such as strokes and psychosis in patients with severe Covid-19, causing scientists to call for more research into the topic.

Researchers reviewed data from patients hospitalised with Covid-19 across the UK in April, when the country was experiencing a sustained peak in reported infections.

They found that neurological and psychiatric complications of Covid-19 had risen in tandem with the rise in the coronavirus.

The study, published in British medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry, was small in scale, looking at 153 cases in total.

The researchers examined only cases they already knew involved brain problems, and did not seek to establish how prevalent such complications were in Covid-19 patients as a whole.

Nonetheless, the researchers said the data was valuable, and called for more research on the topic.

125 cases were examined in detail. Of those, 77 had strokes, and 39 had altered mental states such as confusion or psychiatric conditions.

The researchers noted that some of these could have existed before the patients contracted Covid-19, but remained previously undiagnosed.

Although most cases of strokes and psychosis were in older people, younger patients were "disproportionately overrepresented" in their sample, the scientists wrote.

Many brain complications have been reported as a concern since the first emergence of the virus in China, the study said. But the authors said their paper was the first systematic review of the topic.

Lead author Benedict Michael, senior clinician scientist fellow at the University of Liverpool, told The Guardian: "There have been growing reports of an association between Covid-19 infection and possible neurological or psychiatric complications, but until now these have typically been limited to studies of 10 patients or fewer."

He added that it was still important to note the study had looked solely at serious cases which require hospitalisation.

Michael Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian that the cases were "striking."

However, he said that scientists should not rule out the possibility that the cases were unrelated and simply happening at the same time as the viral infection.

Sarah Pett, a University College London professor who helped lead the work, told Reuters: "This [is] an important snapshot of the brain-related complications of Covid-19 in hospitalised patients. It is critically important that we continue to collect this information to really understand this virus fully."

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