SoCal doctor explains connection between delirium and COVID-19

As more is learned about the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests COVID-19 might cause delirium. One Southern California doctor explains what he's seeing.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There are new drug treatments being developed to protect the body against the novel coronavirus and new research links a troubling mental health side effect with COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care, joined ABC7 via Skype to discuss further.

1) One tiny biotech company (Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego) claims they're working on a drug that forms a protective shield against the infection. Is it possible a small company might be the first to develop a treatment over a huge pharmaceutical company?

Cardillo said it's certainly possible considering some smaller companies are more "nimble" and sometimes willing to take greater risks.

"What they've done is, based on the human genome, we have a library of over millions of antibodies that we know of, and they've taken those antibodies and they've run simulation models and they found a handful that actually blocks the receptor, the ACE2 receptor, that the virus is binding to in our cells," Cardillo said. "They have a handful of these antibodies that they've isolated."

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Patients with COVID-19 experience mild to severe respiratory illnesses.

"One very specific one that does a very good job at it, and about three others that do a good job together," Cardillo said. "So, they're going to have one modality that is a treatment for patients and another they're sort of calling the "COVID shield," which is going to go in there and block our body's ability to bind."

2) A new study suggests COVID-19 might cause delirium. Can you explain more on how it might impact the brain?

"We know the (COVID-19 infection) is a vascular infection and it's infecting all the vasculature in our body and the organs that receive the greatest blood supply are most at risk, so we saw this manifesting obviously in the lungs, but now we're seeing up to two-thirds of the patients hospitalized have some sort of delirium," Cardillo said. "And that's because our brain is highly supplied with vasculature. And our cognition is the first to go when that organ starts to suffer."

Cardillo said while acute delirium is being seen, the concern is if patients start seeing a long-term effect. Since the virus can damage organs there could possibly be long-term consequences.

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"Certainly in the hospital level, people that are coming in acutely ill, we're seeing a great a majority of them actually having cognitive problems with acute delirium," Cardillo said.

3) Researchers say they've launched a study to see if dogs can "sniff out" the coronavirus. What can you tell about that?

"We do know, at baseline, a lot of tumors and cancers, release certain chemicals into the body, certain pheromones that the animals have been trained to pick up," Cardillo said. "Now they're trying to train those dogs to pick up any scent that could be related to a COVID-19 infection, and they're actually showing some promising results."
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