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Coronavirus: US researchers reveal possible causes of long covid

Many people infected with the coronavirus still suffer from symptoms months later. Now researchers have presented new results on the causes of Long Kovid.


in short needed

  • An American research team has presented findings on the possible causes of Long Kovid.
  • Accordingly, among other things, a low cortisol level can indicate severity.
  • The results have not yet been confirmed by independent experts.

For many people, the corona virus infection passes without any major harm. Elsewhere, however, the symptoms do not go away, causing weeks or months of suffering for those affected. That’s why Long Covid is closely scrutinized in science.

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A research team led by immunologist Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University in the US has published new findings on the possible consequences of the coronavirus. Scientists found abnormal values ​​in the blood and immune cells of people affected by long-term covid. The results were uploaded to the MedRxiv document server and indicate possible causes of the disease.

The work is only a preprint, so the results still have to be checked by independent experts. If they are confirmed, they can be used as so-called biomarkers. Meaning: With them, longer COVID could be detected later and a therapy approach could be developed. Among other things, biomarkers are indicators of diseases.

The team, led by immunologist Iwasaki, compared the findings in long-term Covid sufferers with three comparison groups. At the time of the study, the affected people had been infected with the corona virus for more than a year on average. The most commonly reported symptoms were fatigue, brain fog, memory problems and confusion.

Coronavirus: Abnormalities in long-Covid patients

During the investigation, the researchers encountered several abnormalities. On the one hand, there was a difference in the concentrations of different immune cells in long-Covid patients. Among other things, an increased number of depleted T cells was discovered. According to Iwasaki, this suggests that cells are stimulated by permanently present antigens.

Also, with long covid, herpes viruses that may have been dormant in the body become active again. According to German immunologist Carmen Schiebenbogen, the finding could mean that some people have longer covid-prolonged EBV. So the long-term symptoms were triggered by reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) during infection, she tells “Spiegel.”

Does Cortisol Levels Keep a “Building Block in Diagnosis”?

Researchers found significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood of people affected by chronic COVID-19. According to Scheibenbogen, this finding is not yet well explained. But it can be a “building block in diagnosis”.

Iwasaki also sees low cortisol levels as an important indicator for predicting the severity of a disease. According to the study, cortisol, along with other values, can serve as a biomarker for long-term covid diagnosis.

Overall, Iwasaki hopes that “this data will help those who still have doubts to understand that Long COVID is real and has a biological basis,” she said in a tweet.

More on the topic:

mirror study data


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