Unlocking long COVID. Blood biomarkers transform testing and treatment

26.09.2023 posted by Admin

Unveiling long COVID. Blood biomarkers breakthrough

In a groundbreaking study conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Yale School of Medicine, researchers have unveiled unique blood biomarkers that set apart individuals with long COVID from those without the condition. These findings are a significant step towards more precise testing and tailored treatments for this persistent ailment, with implications for individuals as young as 16 years old.

Long COVID, a condition characterized by lingering symptoms following a COVID-19 infection, has long puzzled medical experts. This study, published in Nature on September 25, is the first to pinpoint specific blood biomarkers that can accurately identify long COVID patients.

Lead researcher David Putrino, PhD, emphasizes the importance of these discoveries, noting that they open doors for more sensitive testing and personalized treatments, which have previously lacked a scientific foundation. Putrino highlights that this research represents a pivotal advancement in establishing reliable blood testing protocols for long COVID.

The journey to this discovery began when physicians within the Mount Sinai Health System identified persistent symptoms in COVID-19 survivors, including cognitive impairment, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.5 percent of adults in the United States suffer from long COVID symptoms lasting more than three months after their initial COVID-19 infection. Many of these individuals have remained without a clear understanding of why they continue to experience these symptoms.

To unravel the mystery of long COVID, the researchers examined 271 patients from three different locations, including Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Union Square, and Yale School of Medicine. They categorized the participants into three groups: those with no prior COVID-19 infection, those who had fully recovered from a confirmed COVID-19 case, and those grappling with active long COVID symptoms for at least four months after their initial infection.

Each patient provided detailed information about their symptoms, medical history, and quality of life. The researchers then collected blood samples from all participants, identifying differences and similarities in biomarkers between the groups. They harnessed machine learning techniques to determine which biomarkers were most effective at distinguishing long COVID patients.

The results were striking, with the algorithm achieving a remarkable 96 percent accuracy in distinguishing those with long COVID from those without. The distinctive features found in the blood of long COVID patients pointed to notable disruptions in immune and hormonal functions.

These disruptions were characterized by abnormal T cell activity, reactivation of latent viruses such as Epstein-Barr, and significant reductions in cortisol levels. These findings offer valuable insights into the disease process of long COVID and highlight the need for personalized medical management.

Putrino stresses that treating long COVID is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, given the complexity of the disease's impact on immune and hormonal systems. As a result, a diverse range of physiological and laboratory tests must be administered, and treatments must be customized to each patient's unique medical history.

Co-Principal Investigator Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, underscores the significance of these findings, emphasizing that they pave the way for a deeper understanding of long COVID's pathogenesis. While further research and validation are needed, these identified markers represent a crucial first step in unraveling the mysteries of long COVID and developing relevant biomarkers.
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