Two recent studies offer new clues about the causes of long-term COVID, a syndrome characterized by persistent sequelae after an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These investigations suggest that long-term COVID may be related to side effects in various organs and damage to neurons.
One of the studies, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, was based on MRIs performed on 259 patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 between 2020 and 2021. The results revealed that approximately a third of these patients had “abnormalities” in several organs, including the brain, lungs, kidneys, heart, and liver, months after being discharged. For example, lesions were observed in the white matter of the brain, which could be related to mild cognitive loss. This suggests that long-term COVID could be the result of an interaction between multiple abnormalities in different organs.
The second study, published in the journal eBiomedicine by a team from the French Inserm, focused on the brain. This study analyzed about 50 patients and found that some of them experienced a decrease in testosterone levels related to an alteration of certain neurons that regulate reproductive functions. In addition, worse performance was observed in cognitive functions in these patients, suggesting that COVID-19 infection could damage these neurons and be related to persistent symptoms.
Long-term COVID is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, intermittent fever, loss of taste or smell, difficulty concentrating, and depression, among others. These symptoms usually persist for months and affect patients’ daily lives. Although research into long-term COVID continues, these studies offer new insights into its possible causes and effects on the human body.