A group of researchers has uncovered biological variables that may help predict whether a person will develop lengthy COVID after following more than 200 patients for two to three months after their COVID diagnosis, the New York Times reported.
The study, which was published in the journal Cell on Tuesday, discovered four parameters that could be detected early in a person’s coronavirus infection and looked to be linked to a higher likelihood of experiencing long-term symptoms weeks later.
The level of coronavirus RNA in the blood early in the infection, which is a measure of viral load, is one of the four parameters identified by researchers.
Another factor is the development of autoantibodies, which are antibodies that wrongly attack body tissues, as in lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, which infects most people when they are young and then generally goes dormant, is a third cause.
The final predictor is having Type 2 diabetes, though the researchers and other experts cautioned that in larger trials with more patients, diabetes may turn out to be just one of multiple medical factors that raise the chance of chronic COVID.
In the multi-part study, the main patient group consisted of 209 participants, ranging in age from 18 to 89, who were infected with the coronavirus in 2020 or early. When patients were diagnosed, during the acute phase of their infections, and two to three months later, researchers looked at blood and nasal swabs.
President of the Institute for Systems Biology and principal investigator of the study, Jim Heath, noted that two or three months after infection, 37% of the patients exhibited three or more signs of extended COVID. Another 24% said they had one or two symptoms, while 39% said they had none.
When individuals with three or more symptoms were diagnosed with COVID-19, 95 percent had one or more of the four biological variables discovered in the study, according to Heath.
Autoantibodies proved to be the most important element, as they were linked to two-thirds of the cases of extended COVID, Heath said.
The blood of persons with persistent neurological disorders included elevated amounts of proteins associated with altered circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycles, which he said could give a mechanism to document that patients’ neurological symptoms were caused by chronic COVID.
John Gillotte, 40, a software engineer who got the coronavirus in March 2020, was one of the study’s primary patients. He was on a ventilator for roughly six days before experiencing delirium when he closed his eyes in the hospital.
Gillotte claims he saw the devil screaming at him. It looked 50 feet tall, had flinging limbs that it had cut off from other people. He then got the image of the demon he saw tattooed on his right arm, plus some depictions of hell and heaven, intended to show his recovery from disease.
Heath noted that Gillotte was re-infected with the coronavirus in October 2020, which could support one of their findings: that patients with higher levels of autoantibodies had lower levels of protective antibodies against the coronavirus, making them more vulnerable to reinfection.
Overall, the research revealed that the four biological components intersected and overlapped, implying that there may be relatively simple approaches to prevent lengthy COVID early on, according to Heath.