Long COVID leaves traces in the blood, study finds

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In a new study from Imperial College London, scientists have made significant strides in understanding long COVID, the persistent health condition affecting millions worldwide after recovering from COVID-19.

This condition has puzzled doctors and researchers alike, with patients experiencing a wide array of symptoms long after the initial infection has cleared.

At the heart of this study is the discovery that long COVID could be linked to ongoing inflammation in the body, detectable through blood tests.

The research team, which included experts from the Universities of Leicester, Edinburgh, and Liverpool, analyzed data from over 650 people who were hospitalized due to severe COVID-19.

They found that those with lingering symptoms had signs of an activated immune system, hinting at continuous inflammation.

What makes this study stand out is its focus on the type of immune response, specifically looking at myeloid cells and the complement system, both key players in the body’s defense mechanism.

These findings suggest that the prolonged symptoms of long COVID may stem from an overactive immune response long after the acute phase of the infection has ended.

Interestingly, the study identified different patterns of immune activation related to the various symptoms of long COVID, such as fatigue and cognitive issues. This led to the identification of five subtypes of long COVID, each with its own immune signature.

This differentiation is crucial as it suggests that long COVID is not a one-size-fits-all condition but rather a spectrum of related syndromes, each possibly requiring different treatment approaches.

The silver lining in this research is the potential for existing drugs to treat long COVID. Medications currently used to modulate the immune system, like IL-1 antagonists and JAK inhibitors, could offer new hope for those suffering from these persistent symptoms.

These drugs, already used for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers, might be effective in targeting the inflammation associated with long COVID.

However, the study’s authors caution that more research is needed, especially since their work focused on patients with severe COVID-19 who were hospitalized.

It remains to be seen whether these findings apply to the broader population of long COVID patients, many of whom had mild initial infections.

This research opens new doors to understanding long COVID and highlights the importance of treating this condition as a complex, multi-faceted syndrome.

With the possibility of tailored treatments on the horizon, there’s renewed hope for millions of people looking for relief from the lingering effects of COVID-19.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, death, 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 research findings can be found in Nature Immunology.

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