New Research Identifies Long COVID/PACS Risk Factors

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Integrative Medicine

older woman looking tiredEven as case rates continue to plummet and California has begun to loosen its COVID restrictions, long COVID continues to be an issue for many. Indeed, we regularly hear from people seeking relief for weeks, even months after they’ve fully recovered from the initial infection.

With such cases, as we blogged about before, one of the things Dr. Joe has really focused on is controlling inflammation. Intravenous therapies have been very helpful, along with oral supplements designed for anti-inflammatory and neurological support.

Also key is pinpointing and addressing underlying conditions that may be fueling the health crisis, such as reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus – something that’s extremely common among long haulers.

In fact, new research in the journal Cell identified reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus as one of four risk factors for developing what’s now being referred to as post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, or PACS for short. The other three?

  • The level of SARS-coV-2 RNA in the blood early on in the infection, indicating viral load.
  • The presence of autoantibodies (antibodies that attack a person’s own body, as in autoimmune disorders).
  • Having type 2 diabetes.

As Dr. Steven Deeks – a UCSF professor not involved with the study – told the New York Times, each of those four factors

is biologically plausible, consistent with theories that other people are pursuing, and importantly, each is actionable. If these pathways get confirmed, we as clinicians can actually design interventions to make people better. That is the take-home message.

Interestingly, the day after this study was published, similar research appeared in Nature Communications. Its authors followed 215 people: 175 COVID patients who were followed up to one year from their primary infection and 40 people who were never infected.

During that time, they found that 82.2 percent of those who had severe infections wound up with long COVID as opposed to just 53.9 percent of the patients with mild infections. They also found that patients with PACS also produced fewer IgM and IgG3 antibodies throughout the course of their infection than did those with milder infections. Antibody levels of infected patients who did not develop PACS rose as infection set in.

The researchers also found that other risk factors played a role, as well—patients with asthma and those who were older tended to be more likely to develop PACS, for example.

If you have long COVID concerns, we encourage you to reach out to our integrative clinic here in West LA to explore supportive therapies that may help your recovery.


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