Long Covid: It is being researched – and these are signals of hope

Updated 9/19/2022 at 12:44

  • There are first indications of the mechanisms by which long carrier activity and associated exhaustion are triggered.
  • The hormone cortisol appears to play a special role as a long cow biomarker.
  • Extensive research is being done into a wide variety of treatment options. So far, however, there is no method available that reliably works against Long Covid. More research is needed for this.

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Extensive research is being done into Long Covid and treatment options. But those affected are still waiting in vain for a cure to cure the disease. Long Covid is not uncommon: The World Health Organization estimates that at least 17 million people in Europe are affected by Long Covid. The most common symptom is severe exhaustion. However, Long Covid can manifest with a variety of symptoms, ranging from headaches, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating to paralysis. What is the current state of research?

Other viral diseases can also lead to severe exhaustion (fatigue). It occurs especially in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS). Is there a relationship between ME / CFS and Long Covid?

“Indeed, we found striking similarities between ME / CFS and Long Covid,” says Dr. Rob Swanda. The American biochemist conducts research at Cornell University in New York and works intensively on the corona pandemic and the Long Covid pandemic. Even with chronic fatigue syndrome, those affected still wait in vain for successful treatment.

What exactly is known about this?

Mitochondrial dysfunction is known to occur in ME / CFS. They can simply be called the energy powerhouses of cells, and they play an important role in the body’s energy metabolism. “Thanks to ME / CFS, the mitochondria in our cells are not as efficient and produce less energy,” says the expert. Scientists assume this explains chronic fatigue. “This relationship is also being investigated at Long Covid.” So far, a number of studies have been published. “But more research is urgently needed.”

Is there really enough research on Long Covid?

There are currently a number of studies on Long Covid. However, they are often not representative as they only contain the data of a few people who are affected. Long Covid is a relatively new research topic. “It is necessary to study this disease with extensive and representative data to discover the unknown and find treatments for the millions affected,” said Dr. Rob Swanda. Different disciplines are required to work together to truly understand what Long Covid does in the body. In addition, more money needs to be allocated to allow more intensive research, says Swanda. The World Health Organization also requires it.

What is known about Long Covid-related biomarkers?

There are first signs of important biomarkers: “We now know that Long Covid’s cortisol levels are low,” says Swanda. The body releases this hormone at a certain rhythm throughout the day. Cortisol levels peak early in the morning. “The hormone is closely related to inflammation and the immune response,” says the expert. “When cortisol levels are out of balance, inflammatory and immune responses are also out of balance.”

A study on the subject was recently published. Low cortisol levels were measured in all Long Covid subjects. In addition, dormant viruses were activated in some of the studied patients. These were the varicella-zoster viruses and Epstein-Barr viruses that can cause herpes infections and glandular fever. This can make those affected even weaker.

What are the current treatment options?

There is currently no drug for Long Covid whose effectiveness has been officially tested and confirmed. “There have been some small studies done to find out what can improve symptoms,” says Swanda. For example, steroids, anticoagulants and dietary supplements have been used. So far, however, it has not achieved any spectacular success. “That’s why more research is needed,” says Swanda.

The American Recover project is currently the most funded research project worth $ 1.15 billion. However, progress is slow. So far, there is at least some evidence, but no effective treatment. In addition, Long Covid can cause a wide variety of symptoms in addition to being extremely exhausted, from which many affected people suffer. Therefore, according to Swanda, an additional challenge will be to match the appropriate treatment with the individual symptoms as precisely as possible.

What about the hopeful German BC 007?

In Germany, there has been a lot of talk recently about the active ingredient BC 007. It was supposed to be used against heart disease – but there is evidence that it may also reduce the symptoms of Long Covid. At the eye clinic of Erlangen University Hospital, he was infused into a patient who had long suffered from Covid. As a result, the symptoms of Long Covid from which he was suffering subsided. These included fatigue, loss of taste, and poor concentration. However, clinical trials are needed to find out if the drug is actually suitable for the treatment of Long Covid. It will probably be a while before we know more about this.

About the expert: dr. Rob Swanda is a biochemist at Cornell University in New York. He conducts intensive research on mRNA and cellular metabolism. He has also worked extensively with mRNA vaccines against the coronavirus, the pandemic itself, and Long Covid. He also regularly tweets on his Twitter account.

Sources used:

  • World Health Organization: at least 17 million people in the WHO European Region have experienced long-term COVID in the first two years of the pandemic; perhaps millions will have to live with it for many years
  • Jon Klein et al. al .: Distinguishing features of Long COVID identified through immune profiling
  • Nature: Long-COVID treatments: why the world is still waiting
  • Uniklinik Erlangen: Great Response to First Successful Long Term COVID Treatment Trial Using BC 007

The government’s bill in the event of a shortage of intensive care beds during a pandemic has been severely criticized by the Greens. They fear that elderly and disabled people would be discriminated against if there were insufficient treatment options.

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