New Study Sheds Light on Long COVID

January 23, 2024

Understanding the mechanisms of long Covid is how we’re going to figure out treatments.

Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, chair of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas, and head of the facility’s long COVID clinic, praising a new study that explores Long COVID.

What To Know: Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland conducted a study raising the question about whether certain cells may stay “turned on” after an initial infection and attack “healthy cells” – causing the immune system to remain on “high alert” months after an infection. Researchers studied 113 COVID patients up to one year following their first infection, using another 39 uninfected individuals as healthy controls. Once the study hit the six-month mark, 40 patients indicated Long COVID symptoms and blood tests revealed that the complement system – a part of the body’s natural immune system which helps to fight infections – was activated.

A professor of immunology and an investigator of the study, Dr. Onur Boyman, said, “When you have a viral or bacterial infection, the complement system becomes activated and binds to these viruses and bacteria and then eliminates them.” Following an infection, this system is to return to a “resting state,” performing functions to get rid of the body’s dead cells, however, if it remains activated after fighting off bacteria and viruses, “it starts damaging healthy cells,” he explained.

Big Picture: Researchers published the study the same week the U.S. Senate focused on Long COVID, asking Americans to share their testimonials. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) says Long COVID develops after four weeks of an initial COVID infection and has a myriad of symptoms that can make it hard to identify. However, the new study out of Zurich helps develop a better understanding of Long COVID, and may provide clues as to how it can be treated and further researched.

Read More: Long Covid explanation in new study possibly paves way for tests and treatments (NBC News)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas