Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Researchers conduct studies to better understand and treat the lasting symptoms of COVID-19.
By Emily Faith Grodin, Staff Writer
Over the last year and a half, researchers and physicians have gained a deeper understanding of the COVID-19 virus. One thing they are just starting to understand is how the virus affects the body long-term, far after symptoms subside.
Long COVID, or long-haul COVID, is becoming more common in hospitals and doctors offices. Patients suffering from post-acute COVID often show a wide array of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first becoming infected. In their November issue, Brain&Life interviewed three individuals suffering from these lasting symptoms. All three contracted the virus one year ago, but various symptoms including a stuffy head, ringing in the ears, memory loss and abnormal heart rate have persisted.
Long COVID has been reported in individuals who experienced mild or no symptoms while infected.
Both physical and cognitive symptoms appear on the long list of side effects. These can either be ongoing manifestations of the sickness, or they can suddenly appear. But most patients test negative for COVID even when symptoms are present.
EClinicalMedicine published a survey of more than 3,000 people from all over the world who had COVID-19 and were battling long-term symptoms. On average, each person experienced more than 55 symptoms. Fatigue, brain fog and cognitive dysfunction were most commonly reported. But a wide range of symptoms were documented including heart palpitations, hallucinations, itchy skin and hair loss.
Andrea McCauley is a local hair stylist in Studio City who had COVID in January.
“I felt fatigued for almost five months after the virus,” McCauley said when asked about her ongoing symptoms. She explained that for a period of time she would forget words and lose her train of thought easily. “The brain fog may still be happening to this day; eight months later.”
Nature Medicine published a study in March that found certain risk factors associated with long-haul COVID. By asking participants to track their symptoms in an app, the study found that certain factors such as being asthmatic, being a woman, being older, or having five or more symptoms when sick put an individual at higher risk of having long COVID.
Research is currently being done all over the world to better understand and treat post-acute COVID. At Missouri State University, Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Lupfer joined other researchers to study how a natural product called N115 can reduce long-haul COVID symptoms. The product contains sodium pyruvate, which is naturally found in every cell of the body. Pyruvate is known to help the body fight infection, has antioxidant qualities and is also associated with energy and lung function. Twenty-two patients with long-haul COVID had their vitals and symptoms recorded for one week without any treatment. The next week all patients received the N115 treatment. The study found that every single patient saw improvement.
The treatment is currently being evaluated by the FDA, but researchers at MSU are hopeful their study will push approval forward.