In addition to harming your physical heath, severe infections of any type can affect your mental capacity as measured on an intelligence quotient (IQ) scale, a new research has found.
The researchers found that infections in the brain affected the cognitive ability the most, but many other types of infections severe enough to require hospitalization can also impair a patient's cognitive ability.
"Our research shows a correlation between hospitalization due to infection and impaired cognition corresponding to an IQ score of 1.76 lower than the average," said senior researcher Michael Eriksen Benros from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Anyone can suffer from an infection, for example in their stomach, urinary tract or skin and the results of this study suggests that a patient's distress does not necessarily end once the infection has been treated.
"It seems that the immune system itself can affect the brain to such an extent that the person's cognitive ability measured by an IQ test will also be impaired many years after the infection has been cured," Benros explained.
In the largest study of its type, 190,000 people in Denmark, born between 1974 and 1994, participated. They had their IQ assessed between 2006 and 2012. Thirty five percent of these individuals had a hospital contact with infections before the IQ testing was conducted.
People with five or more hospital contacts with infections had an IQ score of 9.44 lower than the average.
"Infections can affect the brain directly, but also through peripheral inflammation, which affects the brain and our mental capacity," Benros pointed out.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.