Long COVID sufferers have unusual hormone and immune systems, a study has found.
Doctors could now more easily test for and treat the condition by spotting the abnormalities that could make people more susceptible.
Physicians at a network of New York hospitals, Mount Sinai Health System, created an algorithm that allowed them to spot long COVID with 96 percent accuracy.
Long COVID patients’ blood revealed they had immunity and hormonal dysfunction that set them apart from the general population, with unusual T cell activity.
The disorder appeared to have reactivated multiple old viruses too, such as Epstein-Barr and other herpes viruses.
Patients also had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Principle Investigator Professor David Putrino, at Mount Sinai, said: “These findings are important—they can inform more sensitive testing for long COVID patients and personalized treatments for long COVID that have, until now, not had a proven scientific rationale.
“This work is so exciting because it is one of the first to show us clear, measurable differences in blood biomarkers of people with long COVID compared with people who recovered fully from an acute infection and a group of people who have never been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“This is a decisive step forward in the development of valid and reliable blood testing protocols for long COVID.
“These findings show us that people with long COVID are living with a disease process that is observable using the blood testing protocols laid out in the study, but also varies from patient to patient depending on their specific medical history.
“This means that physicians must listen to their patients and perform a wide variety of physiological and lab tests while adopting a highly personalized approach to the medical management of long COVID.
“There is no ‘silver bullet’ for treating long COVID because it is an illness that infiltrates complex systems such as the immune and hormonal regulation.
“Complex illnesses require complex treatment solutions and we need more rapid research to better understand long COVID and discover new and promising therapies.”
A team from Mount Sinai Health System first identified long COVID symptoms in 2020, when patients reported problems persisting after the virus had subsided.
Symptoms included cognitive impairment or ‘brain fog’, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and chronic pain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim one in 13 US adults had long COVID that lasted over three months following the infection.
For the latest study, the Mount Sinai clinicians analyzed 271 patients from The Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Union Square and Yale School of Medicine between January 2021 and June 2022.
The cohort was divided into three groups: never had COVID, those who had recovered from the virus, and those with active long COVID symptoms for at least four months after infection.
On average, the latter group had long COVID symptoms for 12 months after contracting the virus.
Each patient completed questionnaires about symptoms, medical history, and quality of life.
Clinicians took blood samples from everyone and identified and compared the blood markers from group to group.
Machine learning analysis was then applied, to understand which biomarkers the algorithm could easily pick out as being a consequence of long COVID.
Co-Principal Investigator Professor Akiko Iwasaki, Yale School of Medicine, said of the study published in Nature: “We are excited to see such clear differences in the immune phenotypes in people with and without long COVID.
“These markers need to be validated in larger studies, but provide a first step in dissecting the disease pathogenesis of long COVID.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”
Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.