JUL 08, 2022 10:32 AM PDT

Long COVID: New Hypothesis about the Cause Raises Questions for Science Community

WRITTEN BY: Zoe Michaud

Long COVID is a term used to describe a wide variety of health problems that some people experience after an infection of SARS-CoV-2. The most commonly reported symptom of long COVID is fatigue, especially after physical or mental effort. Others report a variety of symptoms including shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, heart palpitations, difficulty concentrating, headache, sleep problems, lightheadedness, changes in small or taste, changes in digestive system, and joint pain.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have proposed a theory for why some people infected with SARS-CoV-2 go on to be affected by long COVID. The researchers hypothesize that a specific region of the COVID virus, residues E661-R685, promotes hyperinflammation and leads to the resulting long COVID symptoms. This hypothesis is based on a series of computational analyses of SARS-CoV-2 sequence, structure and interactions, along with RNA sequencing and analysis.

Residues E661-R685 are a stretch of amino acids that make up a single part of the spike proteins that allow SARS-CoV-2 to latch onto cells and cause infection. Due to the molecular structure and functionality of these residues, the researchers believe that these spike proteins can cross the blood-brain barrier, resulting in damaged brain cells.

Since this research is still speculative, the researchers involved are calling on the scientific community to investigate this region of COVID. Magali Noval Rivas, PhD, a Cedars-Sinai researcher who authored the paper, says that “we need to conduct more research to prove if this is indeed the mechanism that causes long COVID so that we can develop treatments to block it.”  

Though the cause of long COVID is not yet known for certain, researchers have identified multiple risk factors for developing long COVID. Individuals who were hospitalized, needed intensive care, and experienced more severe cases of COVID are at a higher risk of developing long COVID.

People who have not been vaccinated for COVID are both more likely to develop a severe case of COVID and more likely to develop long COVID. Among patients who are hospitalized for COVID, more than 30% experience long COVID at 6 months post-infection compared to less than 2.5% among those who were not hospitalized.


Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Frontiers in Immunology

About the Author
Biology
Zoe (she/her) is a science writer and a scientist working in genomics. She received her B.S. from the University of Connecticut with a focus in Evolutionary Biology. At Labroots, she focuses on writing scientific content related to clinical research and diagnostics.
You May Also Like
AUG 28, 2022
Immunology
Understanding When Recovery is Going Well, or Not
AUG 28, 2022
Understanding When Recovery is Going Well, or Not
When there is illness or injury, there is inflammation; immune molecules and cells race to the site of infection or tiss ...
AUG 29, 2022
Health & Medicine
US-Funded Research to be Open Access by 2026 Under New Federal Guidance
AUG 29, 2022
US-Funded Research to be Open Access by 2026 Under New Federal Guidance
If you have ever done research for school or work, or simply been curious about a scientific finding and wanted to read ...
SEP 05, 2022
Cancer
Grover Cleveland's Covert Cancer Excision
SEP 05, 2022
Grover Cleveland's Covert Cancer Excision
Labor Day, the American holiday created to celebrate the “social and economic achievements” of the workforce ...
SEP 05, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Physical Activity May Improve Mental Function in Parkinson's Patients
SEP 05, 2022
Physical Activity May Improve Mental Function in Parkinson's Patients
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that results from the impairment of nerve cells in an area of the brain ca ...
SEP 07, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
An Oral Insulin Pill is Getting Closer
SEP 07, 2022
An Oral Insulin Pill is Getting Closer
Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires constant monitoring. Patients have to check the level of sugar, or glucose i ...
SEP 20, 2022
Technology
Face Mask That Detects Viral Exposure
SEP 20, 2022
Face Mask That Detects Viral Exposure
One of the most ubiquitous visual symbols of the COVID-19 pandemic was the face mask. As government authorities began re ...
Loading Comments...