Trajectories of Inflammatory Markers and Post-COVID-19 Cognitive Symptoms: A Secondary Analysis of the CONTAIN COVID-19 Randomized Trial

Jennifer A. Frontera, Rebecca A. Betensky, Liise Anne Pirofski, Thomas Wisniewski, Hyunah Yoon, Mila B. Ortigoza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Chronic systemic inflammation has been hypothesized to be a mechanistic factor leading to post-acute cognitive dysfunction after COVID-19. However, little data exist evaluating longitudinal inflammatory markers. METHODS: We conducted a secondary analysis of data collected from the CONTAIN randomized trial of convalescent plasma in patients hospitalized for COVID-19, including patients who completed an 18-month assessment of cognitive symptoms and PROMIS Global Health questionnaires. Patients with pre-COVID-19 dementia/cognitive abnormalities were excluded. Trajectories of serum cytokine panels, D-dimer, fibrinogen, C-reactive peptide (CRP), ferritin, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and absolute neutrophil counts (ANCs) were evaluated over 18 months using repeated measures and Friedman nonparametric tests. The relationships between the area under the curve (AUC) for each inflammatory marker and 18-month cognitive and global health outcomes were assessed. RESULTS: A total of 279 patients (N = 140 received plasma, N = 139 received placebo) were included. At 18 months, 76/279 (27%) reported cognitive abnormalities and 78/279 (28%) reported fair or poor overall health. PROMIS Global Mental and Physical Health T-scores were 0.5 standard deviations below normal in 24% and 51% of patients, respectively. Inflammatory marker levels declined significantly from hospitalization to 18 months for all markers (IL-2, IL-2R, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, INFγ, TNFα, D-dimer, fibrinogen, ferritin, LDH, CRP, neutrophils; all p < 0.05), with the exception of IL-1β, which remained stable over time. There were no significant associations between the AUC for any inflammatory marker and 18-month cognitive symptoms, any neurologic symptom, or PROMIS Global Physical or Mental health T-scores. Receipt of convalescent plasma was not associated with any outcome measure. DISCUSSION: At 18 months posthospitalization for COVID-19, cognitive abnormalities were reported in 27% of patients, and below average PROMIS Global Mental and Physical Health scores occurred in 24% and 51%, respectively. However, there were no associations with measured inflammatory markers, which decreased over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e200227
JournalNeurology: Neuroimmunology and NeuroInflammation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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