CORONAVIRUS

Parkinson's patients face higher risk of dying from coronavirus, University of Iowa study suggests

(Gazette file photo)
(Gazette file photo)
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People with Parkinson’s disease may have a higher risk of death as a result of COVID-19, according to a new study published by researchers from the University of Iowa.

Using data from a nationwide research network, researchers determined that those with the neurodegenerative disorder have a 30 percent higher risk of dying if they are infected with the novel coronavirus.

The study, which was published in a medical journal called Movement Disorders, was led by University of Iowa Health Care neurologists Dr. Qiang Zhang and Dr. Nandakumar Narayanan.

The increased risk may be related to the fact that pneumonia is a leading cause of death for those with Parkinson’s disease, according to a news release. COVID-19 can cause pneumonia in patients.

But whether this could indicate that other neurological conditions also could be risk factors is unknown.

“Parkinson’s patients have known risk from respiratory infections, but we don’t specifically know what their risk from COVID-19 is,” Narayanan said in an email.

“We also don’t know how this might translate to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy-Body dementia, stroke and multiple sclerosis.

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“For now, we would recommend that everyone takes this serious by wearing a face mask, maintaining social distances and being mindful. We will get through this together.”

The research team analyzed data from TriNetX COVID-19 research network, a database of medical records of patients around the country and beyond, of which identifying information has been removed.

Researchers identified a cohort of 80,000 COVID-19 patients as of July 15 and analyzed their mortality rates eight weeks later. They also took into account other risk factors, including age, race and sex.

Of the 694 COVID-19 patients within the study who had Parkinson’s disease, 148 of those patients — or 21 percent — died as a result of the virus. Only 5 percent — or 4,290 of 78,355 — of COVID-19 patients who did not have Parkinson’s died during the study period.

“We recognize the limitations of this study, it is retrospective data from a single database, but we are confident that these data show that Parkinson’s disease is independent risk factor for death in COVID-19,” Narayanan, who also is a member of the Iowa Neuroscience Institution, said in a news release.

“We believe this observation will be of interest to clinicians treating patients with Parkinson’s disease, and public health officials.”

The study can be read online here.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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