(WXYZ) — There was no way to predict who would suffer from lingering symptoms after recovering from COVID-19. But new research has discovered four biological factors linked to Long COVID-19.
Long COVID-19 can be pretty debilitating. People can suffer from lasting symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can last weeks to months.
Why is it that only some people suffer from lingering symptoms while others don’t? Hoping to answer that question is a group of 50 scientists led by the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. These researchers followed 309 patients after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. These patients were between the ages of 18 and 89. Some were hospitalized, and some were outpatients with mild disease.
Here’s what the researchers did. They took blood samples and nasal swabs right after infection and then again two to three months later. They also analyzed the patient's symptoms. That’s how they found four critical biological factors that could raise a person’s risk of Long COVID-19.
Here are the factors:
- High viral load means that significant amounts of the virus’s RNA have been found in a person’s blood shortly after getting infected.
- Also the Epstein-Barr virus. This virus is very common, and people often get it when they’re young. It typically becomes dormant, but if it reactivates when a person is infected with the coronavirus, it can increase the risk of Long COVID-19.
- The third factor is autoantibodies. The immune system creates these. Unfortunately, they attack body tissue or organs. And researchers found high levels of these autoantibodies were linked to lower levels of protective antibodies that fight Covid.
- Lastly, the final factor is Type 2 diabetes. If you have Type 2 diabetes, it could put you more at risk for Long COVID-19. However, the researchers believe there are likely other medical conditions that could put you at risk of Long COVID-19.
Of all these four factors, the most influential one is autoantibodies. They were linked to two-thirds of the cases during the study. Now, there is no cure for Long COVID-19, but the researchers suggest that people who develop high viral loads might benefit from antivirals right after getting diagnosed. The quicker the virus is eliminated, the less likely a person might develop Long COVID-19.
We're possibly a step closer to figuring out why Long COVID-19 happens in the first place - once that's understood, then treatment can follow.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.