Expert optimistic about possibility of tests for long COVID
- Long COVID
Professor Danny Altmann, from Imperial College London’s Department of Immunology and Inflammation, is one of the leading researchers working on understanding why some people have persistent symptoms of COVID-19, while others recover fully from the infection.
His team are developing tests to look at antiviral immunity, white blood cell subsets and patterns of autoimmune antibodies in people with long COVID compared to those who have recovered from COVID-19, with hopes that the research will help to find potential treatments for the condition.
Professor Altmann said: “I’m optimistic about a test (or tests) for long COVID, even if the disease process encompasses more than one mechanistic pathway.
“We and many other groups around the world are working hard to characterise serum biomarkers – that is, a signature of changes that could be definitively tested in a small blood test.
“In our approach, this is based upon analysis of differential immune responses, especially autoimmunity, that is, antibodies that attack the body’s own cells.”
The Imperial research team is hoping to use blood samples from non-hospitalised long Covid patients and those who fully recovered from the virus to analyse the different patterns of immune response and what may be causing the different outcomes from infection.
Professor Altmann noted that it was important for researchers to understand how to diagnose long COVID in order to allow people to get access to healthcare services for the condition. These diagnostic clues should also help to inform choice of new treatments.
He added that if between 10-20 per cent of COVID-19 cases were to lead to persistent symptoms, this could mean there were already up to 40 million long-term cases globally, posing a significant challenge for healthcare planning and provision.
Watch Professor Altmann's recent presentation outlining the study at the Imperial Academic Health Science Centre monthly seminar below.
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