GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Three known cases of people who developed Parkinson’s-like symptoms after being infected with COVID-19 have scientists wondering if there is a link between the two.

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D. of Van Andel Institute says, “Evidence is mounting that the side effects of COVID-19 infection, such as inflammation and damage to the vascular system, could lay the foundation for development of Parkinson’s disease.”

Parkinson’s disease is a multi-system disorder that begins years, or even decades before symptoms appear. Researchers believe viral infections may play a role in triggering the earliest stages of the disease.

Brundin and his fellow researchers say there are several possible ways that COVID-19 could contribute to Parkinson’s onset, including a link between chronic inflammation and Parkinson’s, and blood clots related to COVID-19 that could cause vascular damage, which could result in a loss of dopamine that mirrors Parkinson’s.  COVID-19 and Parkinson’s also share the same early symptoms such as loss of sense of smell, and intestinal issues.

The 3 reported cases had no family history of Parkinson’s. Although they don’t prove that COVID-19 causes Parkinson’s, scientists are calling for long-tern studies to be done.

COVID-19 is clearly a major and ongoing public health threat, but the consequences of infection may end up being with us for years and decades to come.

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.