Long COVID-19 may be caused by abnormally suppressed immune system in some people, small UCLA-led studies

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A potential contributor to Long COVID-19 may in fact be an abnormally suppressed immune system, and not a hyperactive one, according to a UCLA-led research team. The study was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical infectious diseases.

This is contrary to what scientists previously thought, which was that an overactive immune response to SARS-CoV-2, often referred to as a “cytokine storm”, was the root cause of the confusing syndrome. Health experts told Fox News that this “cytokine storm” is an overreactive inflammatory reaction in the infected person that could potentially cause damage to lungs and other organs, possibly causing serious illness or even death.

Long COVID, which occurs in a subset of patients recovering from COVID-19, is a syndrome in which a wide range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, muscle pain, fatigue, vocal fatigue, and brain fog, persist for several months after the acute stage of infection. , health experts explained to Fox News.

A worker in a protective machine takes a swab for a COVID-19 test at a coronavirus test facility in Beijing, Saturday, April 23, 2022. Beijing is on alert after 10 middle school students tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, in which city ​​officials said was an initial round of testing.

A worker in a protective machine takes a swab for a COVID-19 test at a coronavirus test facility in Beijing, Saturday, April 23, 2022. Beijing is on alert after 10 middle school students tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, in which city ​​officials said was an initial round of testing.
(AP Photo / Mark Schiefelbein)

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According to the press release on the UCLA study, limited understanding of the causes of long-term COVID makes it challenging to treat the condition.

“Although this was a small pilot study, it does suggest that some people with long-term COVID-19 may actually have underactive immune systems after recovering from COVID-19, which means that increasing immunity in these individuals may be a treatment. , “Dr. Otto Yang, professor of medicine, division of infectious diseases and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said in a press release.

A woman is being tested in a mobile COVID-19 test car

A woman is being tested in a mobile COVID-19 test car
(Liao Pan / China News Service via Getty Images)

While investigating the idea that long COVID-19 is triggered by an underlying hyperactive immune response, the UCLA-led team of researchers investigated the effect of the monoclonal antibody Leronlimab on Long COVID-19 in a small exploratory trial involving 55 people with condition. Leronlimab is an antibody that binds to an immune receptor involved in inflammation called CCR5, the study authors explained in the publication.

Participants were randomly selected to receive weekly injections of the antibody or a saline placebo for eight weeks. During that period, investigators tracked changes in 24 symptoms associated with prolonged COVID, according to the release.

In the report, the investigators explained that they initially believed that blocking CCR5 with Leronlimab would weaken the response of the overactive immune system following a COVID-19 infection.

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“But we found just the opposite,” Yang, who is also a senior writer, said in the release. “Patients who improved were those who started with low CCR5 on their T cells, suggesting that their immune system was less active than normal, and levels of CCR5 actually increased in people who improved. This leads to the new hypothesis that prolonged COVID in some individuals is related to the suppressed and not hyperactive immune system and that the antibody, while blocking its activity, can stabilize CCR5 expression on the cell surface, leading to upregulation of other immune receptors or functions . “

The researchers stated in the publication that the results suggested “a complex role for CCR5 in balancing inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects, for example through T-regulatory cells.”

A woman is being tested for COVID-19 at Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, December 1, 1021. South African doctors say the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant results in , to mild symptoms.

A woman is being tested for COVID-19 at Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, December 1, 1021. South African doctors say the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant results in , to mild symptoms.
(AP Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed)

Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America who was not affiliated with the study, commented on the findings to Fox News, saying, “This preliminary study presents exciting new information about COVID-19 long-distance syndrome.” Glatt, who also serves as chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Long Island, New York, added: “At this point, however, our understanding of the pathogenesis of ‘long COVID’ is still unclear. This study supports further research. to investigate another potential mechanism. “

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The study authors stated that the results should be confirmed in a larger, more definitive study. It is also noted in the release that the study was funded by Leronlimab manufacturer CytoDyn Inc. and performed by researchers either employed by or serving as consultants for the company.

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