"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.

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