Open thread: long COVID

Researchers at Canada’s Western University have used an MRI technique to identify the physiological nature of long COVID:

What we saw on the MRI was that the transition of the oxygen into the red blood cells was depressed in these symptomatic patients who had had COVID-19, compared to healthy volunteers.

The topic is important both at the individual and societal level. For individuals, the potential severity of getting COVID is much worse given that a debilitating long-term condition can arise from it. For society, the presence and extent of long COVID mean that the total costs of the pandemic can still rise by a great deal.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “Open thread: long COVID”

  1. Who’s most at risk of developing long COVID? Experts think these 6 groups of people might be

    1) Those who’ve had repeat COVID infections, regardless of severity.

    If you’ve survived COVID unscathed, the odds aren’t necessarily in your favor next time around. A preprint of a study published earlier this month on ResearchSquare found that risk of long COVID, hospitalization, and death increased with each COVID reinfection, Azola says.

    2) Those who had a high viral load during their COVID infection.

    A recent study found that those who had higher viral loads during their acute COVID infection—regardless of severity of symptoms—were more likely to develop long COVID. Treatments like COVID antiviral Paxlovid may eventually reduce long COVID in this at-risk population by squashing their viral loads, Azola says.

    3) Those who harbor dormant Epstein-Barr Virus.

    Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is one of the most common human viruses. Many are infected during childhood and don’t know it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus can cause mononucleosis and, according to some researchers, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—which, similar to long COVID, includes symptoms like fatigue, concentration problems, and headaches. The aforementioned study found that some long COVID patients were more likely to have levels of reactivated EBV circulating.

    4) Those who have autoimmune antibodies circulating.

    The aforementioned study also found that those with auto-antibodies circulating were at higher risk. Only 6% of long COVID patients with auto-antibodies had been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition before COVID, researchers wrote. “They seem to have an increased number of antibodies in their blood, but we don’t know why or how,” Azola says.

    5) Those who had neurological symptoms during their COVID infection.

    Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos—an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins’ Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine who treats long-COVID patients—hypothesizes that a subset of “long haulers” who experience fatigue and shortness of breath have brains that misinterpret subclinical inflammation or remaining virus. Their neurons, damaged by COVID, signal for the body to produce sensations that encourage them to seek more sleep and oxygen. In his clinical experience, long COVID patients who fit into this bucket often experienced neurological symptoms—like loss of taste or smell and bad headaches—during their acute COVID infection.

    6) Those who haven’t been vaccinated.

    There is conflicting data about how much vaccination reduces one’s risk of long COVID. “Some studies say a lot, some say 10%, but the overarching message is that vaccines decrease the risk of long COVID,” Azola says.

  2. Your next infection could be the one that permanently disables you.

    By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 26th January 2023

    But instead of taking simple and effective actions – proper (N95) masks in public places, filtration in shared spaces – we have steadily normalised a mass disabling agent. It’s likely, eventually, to reduce the number of quality years for almost everyone. Those who suffer the extreme version of this disablement, long Covid, are treated as an embarrassment we would prefer to forget.

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