Three California teenagers have been found to have developed psychiatric symptoms as a result of COVID-19 infection, in what is a rare but terrifying side-effect of the virus many assume younger people are safe from.
A research team from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), performed case studies on the three teens to examine how exactly this occurred.
Each of the three teens have very different cases and difference backgrounds, making the symptoms especially confusing.
While three cases is not enough to draw widescale conclusions about the virus, researchers believe the symptoms could be the result of an immune response that causes inflammation in certain parts of the brain.
Researchers have investigated at least three cases of teenagers experiencing psychiatric symptoms after contracting Covid. One of the patients is still feeling the symptoms after six months of treatment. One of the researchers told DailyMail.com that they believe it could be a result of a person’s brain becoming inflamed as part of an immune response to the virus (file photo)
The UCSF research team, who published their findings in JAMA Neurology on Monday, gathered medical testing and screening data from the three patients while they were hospitalized due to their psychiatric issues.
Dr Sam Pleasure, a neurology professor at UCSF and co-author of the study, told the DailyMail.com that there is an established link between viral infections similar to Covid and these types of psychiatric issues.
‘As neurologists, we are used to thinking about these things are occurring post infectious phenomena,’ he said.
‘We know based on the literature on SARS that there were a reasonable amount of incidence.’
Nearly two decades ago, when SARS, or SARS-CoV-1, initially had an outbreak in Asia, there was a string of people displaying psychological issues that experts believe could have been caused by the virus.
While a causal association can not be established, researchers are confident that the phenomena is not a coincidence.
Now with COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, researchers are beginning to detect the same link between the viral infection and these types of issues.
Like many other organs, the brain can become inflamed as a result of a person’s immune system fighting the virus.
If the part of the brain that controls a person’s thoughts become inflamed, Pleasure says, then it is possible that they will face psychiatric issues.
The first patient in the case study had a history of anxiety and depression before he tested positive for Covid.
Following their infection, they suddenly began to experience sever symptoms of paranoia ‘quite abruptly’, Pleasure says.
The patient started to believe that people were following them around and had ‘delusions of persecution’.
While this patient did use marijuana, the researchers have ruled the drug out as a cause.
Patient one quickly began to feel better after immunotherapy treatment, though, and after a month of treatment had fully recovered.
The second patient had a much more severe case that they are still receiving treatment for.
Before Covid, they already had struggled with anxiety and some mental tics.
While this patient never tested positive for Covid, they started to experience symptoms of the virus early in the pandemic and an antibody test showed that they had been infected at some point.
After recovering from infection, they started having trouble focusing and completing homework.
Over the next six weeks, they developed suicidal ideation, aggression, sadness, mood lability, and insomnia, among other symptoms.
Ten weeks after their symptoms began they were admitted into the hospital.
The patients received on-and-off treatment for the next six months, and while they have improved, there are still some lingering psychiatric issues they are experiencing from infection.
‘There are going to be a subgroup of people who will not get better with purely psychiatric approaches,’ Pleasure said, adding that there needs to be more investigation into the development of these issues.
Pleasure believes that the third patient may be different that the other two.
After four days of ‘odd behavior’ like insomnia and anorexia, they checked into the hospital.
The patient reported taking an unknown substance when the symptoms started, though nothing showed up on a toxicology report.
A PCR test found the patient positive for Covid.
Pleasure has his doubts, though, and believes the patient’s symptoms may have just been a result of whatever substance he took.
The symptoms quickly disappeared after a few days, and the person returned to normal – and Pleasure believes that was a result of the substance just wearing off.
At least two of these patients, both of which had a history of some psychiatric issues before the virus, developed severe symptoms after infection.
Pleasure ties these issues to a condition called ‘long Covid’, where a person will feel symptoms related to the virus long after recovery.
Other long Covid symptoms include anosmia – the loss of taste and smell that Pleasure also believes could be tied to brain inflammation, extreme fatigue, ‘brain fog’, frequent headaches and more.
Some experts believe that somewhere between 30 to 70 percent of Covid patients will experience long Covid in some form.
Why exactly this occurs, and how exactly to treat the condition have baffled experts in recent months.