John Minchillo / AP
After Covid-19 The epidemic begins, A team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health began putting hundreds of people under a microscope to try to figure out why some patients might develop chronic health problems.
Scientists knew from previous outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola that some patients would probably continue to struggle with symptoms that could be debilitating.
Doctors were looking for something through the volunteers’ medical records that might indicate a tendency for their chronic health problems, later to be called chronic covid, symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and shortness of breath. Researchers tested more than 130 subjects to find out if their vital organs were damaged, the virus was still hiding in their bodies or their immune system was defective.
On Tuesday, scientists released the first results from the study, which is ongoing. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, compared the 189 patients caught with Covid-19 to 120 patients who did not become ill.
The results are both disappointing and provocative.
“A comprehensive medical assessment has largely failed to reveal the cause of these persistent symptoms,” Dr. Michael Snyler, an infectious disease specialist who led the study, told NPR.
“We did not find evidence that the virus survived or hid in the body. We also did not find evidence that the immune system was overactive or defective in any way that could cause injury to major body parts,” Schneler said.
Researchers, however, have found that women and those who suffer from anxiety are more likely to have a long covid. But the researchers emphasize that their findings do not mean that patients have emotional problems.
“I obviously don’t want to send this message that it’s not all real. And in people’s heads. And just go home and stop thinking about it. It’s not a message,” Snyler said.
Schneler said he hopes his results will help doctors treat patients with chronic covidia better. Identifies the key, for example No. Wrong, doctors can avoid unnecessary, potentially harmful treatments. Some doctors are prescribing inhalers that can cause side effects for people with normal lung function, he said.
Instead, Schneler says her research could persuade more doctors to focus on interventions that could help, such as physical and cognitive behavioral therapy.
But some are concerned that the results could send the wrong message. The fear is that doctors will dismiss patients, especially when the standard test shows nothing.
“We know that invisible illnesses are often psychological,” said David Putrino, a professor of rehabilitation medicine who studies and treats long-suffering patients at Mount Sinai Medicine in New York.
“We know that most people with an infection-related chronic illness are constantly misdiagnosed with anxiety at first. Regular cookie-cut tests will not show anything in your long-covid patients. We need to look more deeply,” Putrino said.
For example, Putrino says other researchers have found evidence of abnormal levels of immune system modulators in patients with long-covid. Others have found evidence of chronic inflammation, a symptom of an overactive immune system.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Aluko Hope of the University of Oregon Health and Science described the results as a “valuable contribution” to understanding long covids by providing patients with a baseline of their health early in the disease.
However, he noted that researchers did not pay enough attention to understanding the fatigue of many long-suffering patients when trying to exercise. Or otherwise apply themselves.
“Since we have come out of the hell of the Covid-19 epidemic, now is the time to study hard and take care of the survivors of COVID-19. Without a thorough understanding of the course of pathophysiology and disease, we should not be allowed to deny normal objective tests. The thematic experience of our patients, “Hope said.
“When we collect evidence, our patients deserve a path to personalized care that acknowledges the many bio-social factors involved in recovering from the illness,” he said.
Schneiler agrees. She continues to study hundreds of other patients, including the first patients in her research, as well as conducting additional tests.
“We’re continuing the analysis to find evidence of autoimmunity or something else,” Snyler said. “This paper is not the end of it – it is just the beginning.”
At the same time, the goal of a new NIH study is to follow up about 20,000 COVID-19 patients, conduct a detailed analysis of their health, and compare them with those who do not receive Covid.
In the end, many experts believe that research will show that there are probably many different causes of chronic covid, depending on factors such as the severity of the initial illness and the predisposing characteristics of a person.