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MDS 2021 | Is there a causal link between COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease?

Angelo Antonini, MD, PhD, University of Padua, Padua, Italy, discusses the link between Parkinson’s disease (PD) and COVID-19. A prevalent symptom of COVID-19 is the prolonged loss of smell, or anosmia, which also commonly precedes the progression of PD. This has sparked the idea that COVID-19 may cause PD. Importantly, there is no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 directly invades neural cells, and animal models suggest that COVID-19 affects the mucosa but not the olfactory bulb. However, COVID-19 associated inflammation may indirectly damage neurons and promote protein aggregation, with seizures being recorded in some cases. Despite this, there is no evidence to suggest that patients who have developed PD following infection with COVID-19 did not already have PD. Overall, it is unlikely that COVID-19 causes PD, but the inflammation it causes may increase the risk of PD. This interview took place during the 2021 International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders.