In two studies from the University of Colorado, scientists found a possible cause of long COVID.
A constant puzzle to solve since the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic has been “long COVID,” a condition in which those infected with the virus have symptoms that linger months or even years after they have cleared the initial infection.
Those symptoms can include chest pain, cough, shortness of breath, brain fog, and fatigue.”
The team has a theory as to why long COVID—also known as post-acute sequelae of COVID, or PASC—is happening: viral reservoirs that linger in the body, causing the immune system to become overactive in its efforts to eradicate them.
In one study, they compared the frequencies of COVID-19-specific T cells and inflammatory markers with lung function in patients who had either pulmonary PASC or resolved COVID-19.
The team found an inverse link between pulmonary function and the frequency of COVID-19-specific T cells in the blood.
The higher the frequency of COVID-specific T cells in the blood of that individual, the worse their pulmonary function tests were.
That showed a really strong connection between these T cells that were potentially driving disease and an actual readout of disease, which was reduced pulmonary function. That was a critical discovery.
The results led the team to theorize that PASC symptoms are being driven by the immune system, which is ramping up inflammation in response to the COVID virus that remains hidden in the body post-initial infection.
Another study examines data from the stool samples and showed that the composition of gut bacteria in the stool of individuals with PASC is linked to increased inflammation markers in the blood.
This suggests that there is an association between the gut microbiome and systemic inflammation in PASC.
Both studies suggest that an antiviral medication such as Paxlovid could be an effective treatment for PASC.
The research suggests that the virus is still being produced in hidden reservoir in some people long after they’re testing negative with a nasal swab.
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The two studies were conducted by Brent Palmer et al and published in the journal PLOS Pathogens and the journal Gut.
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