Imagine someone telling you that you are going to get a pin prick. This is okay, until you are informed that there is a 50-50 chance that the bite will cause you brain damage and a host of prolonged symptoms for the foreseeable future.
This is how Dr. Lucio Miele, professor at the LSU School of Medicine, explains to young people the threat of COVID-19, a variety of symptoms that persist longer in patients after contracting COVID-19.
On average, young people do not have severe symptoms of COVID-19 involving hospitalization or resulting in death. But the poorly understood sequelae of the virus are worrying, researchers say.
“I’m not really afraid of a pin prick,” Miele said. “But that’s the kind of probability calculation someone has to do. The risk that needs to be considered in your assessment is not just getting sick or not getting sick, but what will happen next.
Long-range COVID, also known as “long-distance COVID,” “post-acute COVID,” and “post-COVID conditions,” is not yet fully understood by doctors and researchers. Prolonged symptoms include difficulty breathing, difficulty thinking or concentrating, chest pain, trouble sleeping, mood swings, changes in smell and taste, impotence, and menstrual changes.
“This is concerning because we still don’t understand much about it,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s public health official. “We also don’t understand how to best treat it, there really isn’t any identified antidote for it.”
Several Louisiana-based institutions, including LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center and LSU Health New Orleans, will investigate the long-running COVID under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The grant is part of the NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery initiative, which aims to enroll 30,000 to 40,000 people across the country over the next year and a half to study their post-acute symptoms of COVID-19. These subjects will be followed for five years.
Miele, one of LSU Health’s lead researchers on the project, said the study will look at all aspects of long-term COVID and aims to explain how many people experience it, why some people develop it and others. no, and how to treat it.
“You can have very mild COVID as a youngster and end up with symptoms that last for months or years. And that’s very difficult to predict, ”Miele said.
“There have been symptoms described that can affect almost any part of the body,” Kanter said. “It potentially affects a very large number of people. We have had over 760,000 people in Louisiana who contracted COVID. “
Miele shared two theories on what he thinks the research will show. The first being that the long COVID is more common than people realize. The other being that a wide range of long term effects will be discovered.
“Everything we know so far tells us that it’s not just a respiratory virus,” Miele said. “The virus circulates in the blood, it affects the walls of the blood vessels. And so it’s going to damage some of the organs most susceptible to vascular damage. “
All of the body’s most crucial systems are susceptible to vascular damage, including the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys.
According to Miele, studies show little correlation between the severity of acute COVID-19 and the likelihood of having long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms.
Miele pointed out that while scientists now know more about how to treat acute COVID, with the advent of new antivirals and the use of monoclonal antibodies, long COVID is still being treated symptom by symptom. “If we don’t understand the pathogenesis of the disease, we won’t be able to treat it symptomatically,” Miele said.
While the study will run for five years, Miele expects the results to be published on an ongoing basis. Miele encourages those who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19 to consider participating in the study, regardless of their age.
“If for nothing else, because you are going to be watched very carefully over the next few years for any possible consequences of the virus,” Miele said, “and because you are going to help the healthcare community to understand this condition and how to treat it.
Miele also encouraged those who show symptoms after acute COVID to see a doctor, as even symptoms like fatigue or headaches can indicate a long COVID.