Coronavirus in numbers: UK reports further 398 deaths
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Scientists are working day and night to figure out why long Covid occurs and what factors could be the main driving force. Research may have pinpointed four of these causes.
Long Covid is a condition described as an acute infection which plagues sufferers with a number of symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue or brain fog.
The condition can also bring about debilitating problems affecting body parts ranging from the heart, brain, lungs, and gut.
Occasionally, these symptoms never go away and can appear months after recovery or after an asymptomatic case.
Meaning they a person can recover from COVID-19 but is not in the clear.
Scientists have proposed numerous hypotheses to explain long Covid’s myriad symptoms since research began in earnest after the first wave of cases in 2020.
Early theories include a weakened immune system, widespread inflammation, and even low sex hormone levels.
There are no firm answers yet, but there’s now greater consensus among researchers about the two leading theories and the ways they may be connected.
In a study published in Nature Communications, factors predicting post-acute COVID-19 syndrome were analysed.
“About one-third of individuals report one or more COVID-19-related symptoms that last for more than four weeks after the onset of the first COVID-19-related symptom, a condition termed post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS) or long COVID,” noted the study.
The prospective multicentric cohort study of 215 individuals, we study COVID-19 patients during primary infection and up to one year later, compared to healthy subjects.
The study found that certain factors may raise a person’s risk of long Covid, such as low levels of certain antibodies, reactivated viruses in the bloodstream, and existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma.
Scientists have proposed a number of explanations for long Covid with two leading theories: that symptoms are driven by the immune system or by the persistence of the virus in the body.
The immune theory suggests that Covid-19 turns the immune system against the body. This could explain symptoms like racing heart, dizziness, weakness, and micro clots in the blood.
The second theory is that the virus can remain in the body and brain long after acute infection, and its genetic material can persist up to 230 days after symptoms arise according to a recent National Institutes of Health preprint.
Lingering virus is often found not in the blood but rather in a person’s tissues.
In long Covid, viral reservoirs could continue to injure tissues directly.
They may leak viral proteins into the bloodstream, where they can spur the formation of the micro clots and activate the immune system, leading to inflammation and further damage.
Like the symptoms of long Covid, the research is all over the place.
To date, there are four factors which could increase a person’s risk of long Covid which include:
- Higher levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the blood in the early stages of infection
- Type 2 diabetes
- Reactivated Epstein-Barr virus
- Presence of certain autoantibodies.
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