Covid: Two factors linked to prolonged symptoms of coronavirus

Long Covid: Dr Sara Kayat discusses impact on children

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Publishing their research in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, researchers from the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences believe they may have found a potential cause of long Covid.

The team behind the study were investigating a link between long Covid and blood clotting, the process by which the body prevents excessive bleeding by grouping red blood cells together.

They have found that that the body’s immune system and blood clotting remained impaired after a COVID-19 infection. Their conclusion was reached after an analysis of patients in Ireland who were suffering from long Covid.

Overall, the blood of 50 people with long Covid was analysed and compared to that of control samples. Those with long Covid had higher levels of a chemical used to clot the blood, known as von Willlebrand Factor (VWF), and lower levels of ADAMTS13, a protein that breaks down VWF.

Lead author the study Dr Helen Fogarty said: “In this study, we examined 50 patients with symptoms of long Covid syndrome. We saw that, in patients with long Covid, the normally finely tuned balance of pro- and anti-clotting mechanisms were tipped in favour of blood clotting.

“Our analysis also suggests that abnormal clotting and disturbed immunity go hand in hand in long Covid. Together, these findings may help explain some of the symptoms of long Covid syndrome.”

As a result, the researchers believe this imbalance caused by a Covid infection could be a potential explainer behind some, although not all, symptoms caused by long Covid.

Meanwhile, Professor James O’Donnell added: “Extensive research has been carried on the dangerous clotting observed in patients with acute severe COVID-19 infection, and we now understand a lot more about how and why these deadly clots occur.”

Professor O’Donnell said that “so much less is known about this persistent illness [long Covid] which is affecting millions of people worldwide”.

Why is less known about long Covid than other illnesses?

The reason for this is simply because long Covid hasn’t been around for as long as other illnesses. The first cases were only discovered in mid to late 2020 and it took a little longer for scientists to understand it was a new chronic condition.

Why is long Covid difficult to treat?

Long Covid is unlike any other chronic condition in that the range of symptoms is vast and the severity of those symptoms can vary from person to person and from day to day.

To put this in perspective, one long Covid patient may suffer a persistent set of symptoms which either allow or don’t allow them to work. However, another patient may feel fine one day, and then exhausted the next.

As a result of this variety in patient experiences, long Covid is a difficult condition to treat. While some health providers, such as BUPA, have got free to access programmes which have shown some success, others remain baffled.

What doesn’t change is the inescapable fact that the number of people with long Covid is rising and with it pressure on health services.

These people, in common with other patients with chronic conditions, will need long-term care and treatment plans to help them manage their long Covid.

However, the hope is that is a cure may be developed for the condition by identifying what causes it and how the symptoms of it can be alleviated or permanently stopped.

What is the key to long Covid research?

In common with why less is known about long Covid than other illnesses, the answer is also simple. What health officials and researchers in this field are calling for is funding; the more funding there is, the faster research will progress and the faster treatments will be rolled out.

This is something which has been seen in another area of Covid combat, the vaccine. While most vaccines take years to reach first or second stages, the COVID-19 vaccines were sped through and the main reason for this was money.

Money funds the research studies and pays for the production and roll-out of treatments; while there are other factors, each of these requires a financial push to see it through.

The sooner this push occurs, the sooner more patients can have their symptoms alleviated which will enable to them to return to a normal life.

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