A recent CNN article (25/09/2325/09/23)described two new studies which provide promising insights into the biology behind long Covid. Blood analysis from Yale/Mount Sinai found lower morning cortisol levels in long Covid patients. This hormone helps wake the body and low levels align with symptoms like fatigue. Immune dysregulation and reactivated viruses were also seen, possibly contributing to symptoms.
MRI scans from an Oxford study revealed lung, brain and kidney damage in 1 in 3 hospitalized Covid patients versus controls months later. Lung injuries matched persistent cough/chest tightness. Though not all damage correlated with symptoms, having damage in 2+ organs predicted severe disability.
These biologically-rooted findings counter notions that long Covid is anxiety/depression. Biomarkers could enable objective diagnosis, tracking improvement in trials. But levels don’t yet provide clear cutoffs for individual patients. Damage may persist based on one year of follow up.
The studies edge closer to a biomarker, which is a “holy grail” for legitimizing long Covid and improving treatment. With 15 million estimated affected in the US, better understanding is urgently needed. Neither study proves causation but they uncover objective patterns aligning with symptoms.
Patients want blood tests to confirm long Covid. We’re not there yet, but these exploratory approaches without preconceived hypotheses yield insights to follow up on. More definitive results would empower those dismissed as purely psychological cases. Answers can’t come soon enough.
While key questions remain on progression, these studies provide evidence long Covid has real physiological roots. They offer hope that with further research, better diagnostics and treatments will emerge. Belief and validation for millions struggling alone may be the most immediate impact.