The long mystery of long COVID: it’s not inflammation!

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“Long COVID” sounds like a strange term, doesn’t it? It’s a term that doctors use for people who have recovered from COVID-19 but still have symptoms.

These can be things like feeling very tired or short of breath. In the UK, almost two million people have long COVID. But what causes it? That’s the big question.

The Study

Scientists from the University of Bristol in the UK wanted to find out.

They thought maybe it’s because the body is still trying to fight off the COVID-19 virus, which can cause inflammation. So, they decided to do a study, which they published in a journal called eLife.

The Experiment

They looked at blood samples from 63 people who were in the hospital with COVID-19. This was back when the pandemic first started, before we had vaccines.

They tested their blood at three months, then again at eight and twelve months after they left the hospital.

Most of these people (about 79%) were still having symptoms like feeling short of breath or very tired.

The lead researcher, Dr. Laura Rivino, said that about one out of ten people who get COVID-19 end up with long COVID. But no one really knows why.

The Findings

What the scientists found was interesting. At three months, the people who had severe symptoms had a problem with their T-cells.

T-cells are a type of immune cell that helps your body fight off viruses. This problem might mean that their bodies were still fighting, even after the virus was gone.

But here’s the thing: by twelve months, even the people with severe disease had normal T-cells again.

And their levels of inflammation were normal, too. So, it didn’t seem like inflammation was causing their long COVID symptoms.

The Mystery Continues

What was also strange was that there weren’t a lot of T-cells fighting the COVID-19 virus at three months. But there were T-cells fighting another virus called cytomegalovirus, or CMV.

Most people have CMV and it doesn’t usually cause problems. So, the scientists think that maybe the T-cells are just responding to other things in the body, not the COVID-19 virus.

The Conclusion

In the end, Dr. Rivino said that we need more studies to figure out what’s going on. We need to look at more people, and we need to look at people who got the vaccine and people who didn’t.

Once we understand more about long COVID, maybe we can find a way to help people who have it. Because nobody wants to feel tired and short of breath all the time, right?

If you care about COVID, please read studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies that low-sodium plant-based diets may prevent COVID-19 better, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

The study was published in eLife. Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.

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