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Who will have Covid for a long time?  The study may offer clues

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Who will have Covid for a long time? The study may offer clues

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A blood test could one day help determine a person’s risk for long-lasting Covid, new research suggests.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, found that people who develop long Covid have lower levels of certain antibodies in their blood shortly after being infected with the coronavirus.

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If confirmed by larger studies, the findings could help scientists develop a test to predict who may continue to suffer from symptoms weeks, months and even years after infection.

“We want to be able to recognize and identify, as soon as possible, who is at risk of developing long Covid,” said Dr Onur Boyman, author of the new study and researcher in the hospital’s immunology department. University of Zurich. .

Long Covid, a poorly understood disease for which there is no standard definition, diagnosis or treatment, has vexed doctors and researchers around the world since the pandemic began.

The precise number of long Covid patients is unclear, although it has been estimated that a third of Covid patients overall may have symptoms for at least a month.

Any early idea of ​​patients likely to become so-called long-haulers is welcome, outside experts said.

Charles Downs, long Covid researcher and associate professor at the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, called the research “very promising.”

“There is no single test, no imaging study, that can be used to give a diagnosis” of long Covid, he said. “It helps us move in that direction.”

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Boyman’s research began in early 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic. His team followed patients through the acute phase of infection, then for six months and then for a year as the long Covid phenomenon became apparent.

By comparing more than 500 Covid patients – some of whom went on to have Covid for a long time and others whose symptoms disappeared – several key differences emerged, he said.

Most glaring was how the immune systems of patients who developed Covid long initially reacted to the virus.

Those patients in Boyman’s study showed marked decreases in levels of two immunoglobulins, IgM and IgG3, which are antibodies that the immune system produces to fight infections. In a healthy immune system, levels of these immunoglobulins tend to increase in the face of infection.

These antibody levels, when combined with other factors, such as average age and a history of asthma, were 75% effective in being able to predict long Covid, Boyman said.

Because the researchers knew which patients had Covid for a long time, more research is needed to determine whether the criteria would be as accurate from the onset of the disease.

“These people might be at a disadvantage from the start,” he said, “and then, because of their history of asthma, they might also react slightly differently to viruses, which then leads to an erroneous immune response.”

Who will have Covid for a long time?  The study may offer clues

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Downs, of the University of Miami, said in his experience, many long-term Covid patients tend to have asthma or other histories of underlying allergy-related illnesses, such as a runny nose. chronic runny linked to seasonal allergies.

If confirmed in larger studies, the research could be “an important step forward in directing resources in post-Covid-19 clinics to those who need them most,” said Dr Kartik Sehgal. , a longtime Covid researcher and medical oncologist at Dana-Farber. Boston Cancer Institute, wrote in an email.

Several caveats apply to the new research. Patients in the study were infected between April 2020 and August 2021, before the omicron variant took hold.

It is therefore uncertain whether the results would apply to those who may develop long Covid as a result of an omicron infection.

In addition, the study did not take into account the vaccination status of the participants. Many long-time Covid patients fell ill in early 2020, before vaccines became available.

“It would be important to see if these markers are still predictive in vaccinated people, as more of the world is vaccinated or has already been infected,” said Claire Steves, clinical lecturer at Kings College London, in a communicated.

But “with cases still high, more people are at risk of developing long-term symptoms,” said Steves, who was not involved in the new research. “We urgently need to step up research on how to prevent this from happening.”

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Who will have Covid for a long time? The study may offer clues

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