San Antonio researchers examining COVID-19’s long-term effects on the brain

San Antonio resident shares experience with COVID-19 and why he is participating in the local study

SAN ANTONIO – UT Health San Antonio researchers are trying to determine if COVID-19 will have long-term effects on older adults’ brains.

San Antonio resident Robert Renteria is participating in the study.

“I’m willing to do whatever I can to help in this research,” Renteria said.

Last year in June, Renteria began feeling sick.

“No sleep, no appetite, some fever,” he said.

Renteria tested positive for COVID-19. Now he wants to learn how the disease could impact him in the long run.

“We wanted to find out what effects it might have on us, and especially me, with the family history,” he said.

Renteria said his father, a veteran of the San Antonio Fire Department, had Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Sudha Seshadri, director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, said it’s crucial to understand the long-term consequences of this infection.

“We are a center that’s caring for people with Alzheimer’s. We need to know what to expect in, say, five years from now or what to expect 10 years from now,” Seshadri said.

COVID-19 can affect people in various ways and at different severities.

“Some people, after they recover, didn’t seem to recover all the way. They had these persistent brain fog-type symptoms. And in a few studies, when they have been imaged, they have actual changes in their brain,” Seshadri said.

Researchers in more than 30 countries are involved in the study in which UT Health San Antonio is participating.

“One of the reasons why it’s important to do this study in San Antonio is because we know that persons of Hispanic ancestry -- for instance, persons with diabetes in San Antonio, unfortunately, have one of the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country. These are risk factors for developing severe symptoms from COVID. These are also factors that increase the probability of developing Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases as compared to persons of, say, European ancestry,” Seshadri said.

Those who participate in the study will be asked a series of questions and undergo examinations. Participants must be 50 years or older and have a positive COVID-19 test.

For more information about the study, click here.

About the Authors

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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