A new simple blood test may be able to determine whether or not COVID-19 survivors will experience long-term symptoms.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, looked at so-called ‘long Covid’ patients.
Up to two-thirds of people infected with coronavirus will develop the condition in some form, with the most severe cases potentially leaving people bed-ridden for months on end.
The team found that small protein molecules called cytokines that could have a link to the condition and that performing a cheap, fast and inexpensive blood test may the best way to diagnose the condition.
Researchers may have discovered a biomarker that indicates a person has long Covid. The discovery opens the door for further research into the mysterious condition. (File Photo)
‘Long Covid’ appears in patients that have recovered from the virus and continue exhibiting symptoms for weeks, or potentially months or years, after clearing the infection.
There are a wide-array of symptoms that can appear, including continued loss of taste and smell, long-term fatigue and long-term sensory issues.
The causes of the condition remain unknown and several studies are being conducted to examine long-term effects.
The new research builds on an Australian study where researchers used blood tests to detect COVID-19 infection.
Participants in the Australian study were repeatedly blood tested following infections to find any potential biomarkers indicating they had previously had the virus.
Cytokines, which are produced by the body in response to infections, are often found to be lingering in a persons body for months after infection.
A second type of cytokines were found by the Cambridge researchers that they believe is tied to the development of long Covid.
‘Because we currently have no reliable way of diagnosing long COVID, the uncertainty can cause added stress to people who are experiencing potential symptoms,’ Dr Nyarie Sithole, author of the study and member of the Department of Medicine at Cambridge, told SWNS.
‘If we can say to them: “Yes, you have a biomarker and so you have long COVID,” we believe this will help allay some of their fears and anxieties.’
This would give medical professionals the first concrete way to detect long Covid.
It would also be the first demonstrable indicator of the condition.
Knowing this now, the Cambridge team plans to launch further investigation into the link between the biomarker and long Covid, and potential treatments for the condition.
One issue many medical professionals have had with long Covid, and why many patients suffering from the condition have been cast aside, is that many people with long Covid will appear totally fine on many diagnostic tests.
It also opens the door to figuring out how it works, and how to treat it.
The researchers believe the lingering biomarkers are making the immune system believe there is still a virus to be combatted, leading to it never switching off.
‘One of the theories of what’s driving long COVID is it’s a hyperactive immune response,’ said Dr Sithole.
‘In other words, the immune system switches on at the initial infection and for some reason never switches off or never goes back to the baseline.
‘As we’ll be following our patients for many months post-infection, we hope to better understand whether this is indeed the case.’
While no bonafide treatments to long Covid have been discovered yet, some report that getting vaccinated has helped cure them of some of the symptoms.
The Cambridge researchers plan to investigate the effect vaccination can have on curing the condition in the future.
“There’s anecdotal evidence patients see an improvement in symptoms of long COVID once they have been vaccinated – something we have seen in a small number of patients in our clinic,’ Dr Sithole said.
Dr Noah Greenspan, a long Covid expert who operates a clinic for the condition in New York City, told DailyMail.com that anywhere between 33 percent to 66 percent of COVID-19 patients will develop the condition in some form.
With over 36 million Americans having contracted the virus since the pandemic began in March, this means anywhere from 12 to 24 million people in the U.S. may be struggling with long Covid in some form.