4 factors that may predict long COVID-19

Clinicians may be able to determine which patients are at risk of developing prolonged COVID-19 symptoms based on four clinical factors measured at the time of diagnosis, according to a study published Jan. 24 in Cell.

Researchers analyzed blood and virus samples, clinical data and self-reported symptoms from 309 COVID-19 patients to identify biological associations that occur in people with post acute sequelae of COVID-19, or long COVID-19.

They identified four risk factors for long COVID-19 that can be assessed at the time of diagnosis:

  • Pre-existing Type 2 diabetes
  • SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels in the blood 
  • Epstein-Barr virus DNA levels in the blood 
  • The presence of specific autoantibodies

"Identifying these PASC factors is a major step forward for not only understanding long COVID and potentially treating it, but also which patients are at highest risk for the development of chronic conditions," said study author Jim Heath, PhD, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, a Seattle-based nonprofit biomedical research organization affiliated with Renton, Wash.-based Providence. 

Researchers also found that both mild and severe COVID-19 cases were associated with long COVID-19. 

They said more research is needed to establish a causal link between risk factors and long COVID-19. The study also only looked at COVID-19 symptoms up to three months after diagnosis, which is another limitation.

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