Neurological consequences of COVID-19: The 'Silent Wave'
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As scientists are still learning about how coronavirus invades brain and long-term neurological consequences that poses, some fear we're headed for a "silent" third wave, this time combined with Parkinson's disease.

In a research paper published today, experts pose the question: Parkinsonism as a Third Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

It comes as cases of Parkinson's disease are set to double in the next 20 years, even before the potential COVID-19 effects.

"We're living through two pandemics," Professor Kevin Barnham, from Australia's Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, said.

Florey researcher Leah Beauchamp said there was increasing evidence the SARS-CoV-2 virus was getting into the brain, although its entry mechanism was unclear.

She said when it first emerged that one of the symptoms of the virus was a loss of smell, her interest was piqued. While a loss of smell might seem minor, it was an indicator of inflammation, which was a major "red flag".

"Inflammation in the brain greatly increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease," she said.

"We believe that the loss of smell presents a new way forward in detecting someone's risk of developing Parkinson's disease early. Armed with the knowledge that loss of smell presents in around 90 per cent of people in the early stages of Parkinson's disease and a decade ahead of motor symptoms, we feel we are on the right track."

Clinical diagnosis of Parkinson's disease currently relies on the presentation of motor dysfunction, but research shows that by this time 50-70 per cent of dopamine cell loss in the brain has already occurred.

The challenge is there are little to no symptoms but the opportunity is early intervention could prevent onset.

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