A pre-pandemic infection could explain why some patients develop long COVID

By Rick Sobey, Boston Herald

A pre-pandemic common cold coronavirus infection may help set the stage for long COVID, according to Boston researchers who have been looking to explain why some patients end up facing the long-lasting, debilitating symptoms.

The researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital teamed up with experts in immunology and virology to look for clues about long COVID in blood samples from patients with autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

The team found that among these patients, those who developed long COVID were more likely to have expanded, pro-inflammatory antibodies specific to a coronavirus that causes the common cold.

A person’s viral history, especially prior infection and expansion of antibodies against a pre-pandemic coronavirus, could prime the immune system for developing long COVID, according to the researchers.

“Our study offers evidence and explanation for why some of our patients may be experiencing the persistent and wide-ranging symptoms of long COVID,” said co-corresponding author Zachary Wallace, of the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Identifying a biomarker that helps us better understand current and previous infections could shed light on an inappropriate immune response that leads to some cases of long COVID,” Wallace added.

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