The University of Zurich (Switzerland) has conducted a study associating a group of blood proteins with persistent COVID, opening the door to improving the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. To delve into this scientific discovery and assess the potential benefits for persistent COVID patients, let’s talk to Dr. Lourdes Mateu, head of the COVID-19 section at the Foundation for the Fight against Infections.
What is the major discovery promoted by the University of Zurich-led study?
Specifically, this research group has identified that patients with persistent COVID show an alteration in the immune system, particularly an activation of the complement, which promotes inflammation of the inner wall of blood vessels and could be responsible for some of the symptoms in these patients.
How will patients benefit from this research?
This research doesn’t yet solve most of the uncertainties posed by persistent COVID but highlights the key role of the immune system in the development of this disease. Further research is needed to definitively identify a treatment that can cure all these individuals.
As far as we know, this study also proposes advances in disease diagnosis. Is that correct?
This finding could be used to detect abnormalities in a blood test for patients with persistent COVID, although it is still too early to confirm. Further studies with a larger number of patients need to be conducted.
It’s evident that patients are not making it up.
Finding a single cause that triggers persistent COVID is very difficult, as there are likely multiple factors. The important thing is that many people are working on this and contributing, as evidenced by this study, providing new scientific evidence that proves long COVID patients are not making it up.
Once again, the role of the immune system is crucial. What can you tell us, doctor?
Yes, at the Foundation for the Fight against Infections, we specialize in addressing infectious diseases precisely because of our knowledge of the immune system, which is affected by HIV, a virus we have been studying for 30 years. Now, this discovery underscores the crucial role of the immune system in the development of persistent COVID and opens the door to designing new studies with drugs specialized in treating this dysfunction.
Can we say that we are moving towards a cure for persistent COVID? Are you optimistic, Dr. Mateu?
We still don’t have any treatment that targets the cause of persistent COVID, but we can administer treatments that improve patients’ quality of life. The significant difference and the major advancement in the past year are that various clinical trials worldwide are currently underway to treat the cause, based on different hypotheses about the pathophysiology of long COVID. This is very positive because it means we are on the path to identifying a treatment that can cure these individuals. For example, on January 18, discussions in the U.S. Senate Health Committee focused on the disease and recent studies, including one led by our research group. This indicates a real and international concern about this issue. So yes, it is a matter of time before we, collectively, can identify a curative treatment for these individuals.