Home Medizin Studie identifiziert Immunabnormalität, die möglicherweise Long-COVID verursacht

Studie identifiziert Immunabnormalität, die möglicherweise Long-COVID verursacht

von NFI Redaktion

Swiss scientists have identified anomalies in the immune systems of patients with long COVID, paving the way for new diagnostic tests and treatments. The researchers found that a group of proteins in the blood, known as the „complement system,“ which are part of the body’s immune response, do not function properly in patients with long COVID.

Blood samples revealed significant differences between those who had recovered from COVID and those who had not. These differences could serve as biomarkers for the diagnosis of long COVID and may even lead to new treatments for the condition, the researchers said.

By testing 6,500 blood proteins in about 300 patients, the Swiss researchers found that dysfunctional proteins of the complement system could potentially explain fatigue and „smoldering inflammation,“ according to Onur Boyman, MD, Professor of Immunology at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland.

Long COVID has been associated with a wide range of symptoms, including brain fog, chronic fatigue, pain, and digestive issues. Various factors drive the condition and likely work together, according to David Putrino, PhD, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. The Swiss study is useful because „we are trying to understand how to best explain this extensive pathobiology,“ he said.

Tests Across Continents

Boymans’s team collected blood samples from people with COVID in Europe and New York and tracked them. They compared those who suffered from long COVID with those who did not. A protein that was most unique to patients with long COVID was a blood complement that activates the immune system, said Boyman. But in people with long COVID, the immune response remains activated after the virus has disappeared. He described the reaction as „smoldering inflammation“ in multiple organs, including the lungs and gastrointestinal system.

The complement system also plays a role in eliminating dead cells from the body. If the cells „lie around too much,“ they could trigger an immune response, he said.

This could explain the intolerance to exertion in people with long COVID, said Boyman. Some people with long COVID have inflammation in the epithelium — the inner layer of their blood vessels. This would make it difficult for circulatory systems to recover from exercise, Boyman said.

„We believe that this regulated complement system is actually a central puzzle piece,“ he said.

The Microclot Connection

The results also support earlier research linking blood clots to long COVID. He suggested that doctors and researchers consider testing drugs that regulate or inhibit the complement system for the treatment of long COVID. Boyman said they are currently used in rare immune diseases.

Resia Pretorius, PhD, Professor of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa, said that scientists studying the role of microclots in patients with long COVID often see complementary proteins in the clots, so this has already been associated with long COVID. But she likened this clotting process to a garbage can that „just rolls by and picks up whatever comes its way. I think they actively drive inflammation and disease.“

One factor that complicates the long-term diagnosis and treatment of COVID is that it is a complex condition involving multiple organ systems. That is why the latest research points to an underlying driver for the diverse symptoms of long COVID, Putrino said.

Research Provides New Direction

The Swiss paper contributes to the efforts to identify systemic problems contributing to long COVID. It gives researchers another thing to test and connect to specific, long-lasting COVID symptoms, opening the door to new treatments, Putrino said.

He does not believe the study supports the treatment of complement disorders if researchers do not know what is causing them. It could complicate things if the body cannot completely clear the virus, he said.

Pretorius recommended that doctors test patients with long COVID for specific symptoms that could be treated with existing therapies. „If you think your patient had a vascular pathology, you can test for this,“ she said.

Some patients found certain dietary supplements and over-the-counter products helpful, she said. These include: Coenzyme Q10 and anticoagulants such as streptokinase and nattokinase (although she noted that some doctors may not agree with dietary supplements).

„It’s all we have until it goes to trial,“ she said.

Putrino said further research is needed to identify potential causes and symptoms. A common refrain, but the only thing that leads to specific treatments.

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