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Simple Blood Test Can Predict Likeliness Of Long Covid: Lancet

The protein levels in the body, which remain stable normally, showed a dramatic difference in levels of some of the proteins up to six weeks following infection, indicating disruption to a number of important biological processes, the study said

Researchers now say that a blood test taken during a COVID-19 infection could predict the likeliness of developing long-term COVID. A recent study conducted by a team from University College London, published in Lancet eBioMedicine, analysed proteins in the blood samples of those healthcare workers infected with SARS-CoV-2 against the samples of not infected healthcare workers.

The protein levels in the body, which remain stable normally, showed a dramatic difference in levels of some of the proteins up to six weeks following infection, indicating disruption to a number of important biological processes, the study said.

The artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm was deployed in order to identify a "signature" in the abundance of different proteins that successfully predicted whether or not the person would go on to report persistent symptoms a year after infection. In case the findings are repeated in a larger number of independent groups of patients, potentially a test could be offered along with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which already predicts people's likelihood of developing long-term COVID.

Dr Gaby Captur, lead author of the study, said, "The study shows that even mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 disrupts the profile of proteins in our blood plasma. This means that even mild COVID-19 affects normal biological processes in a dramatic way, up to at least six weeks after infection." Although the tool predicts long-term COVID, it still requires validation in an independent, larger group of patients. "However, using our approach, a test that predicts long Covid at the time of initial infection could be rolled out quickly and in a cost-effective way," Captur added.

As per a recent study at the University of Michigan, more than 40 per cent of COVID-19 survivors across the world, or over 100 million, have or had long-term effects after recovering.

For the UK study, researchers evaluated samples of blood plasma from 54 healthcare workers with PCR-or antibody-confirmed infection. The samples were taken on a weekly basis for six weeks in spring 2020. This was compared to samples taken from 102 not-infected healthcare workers over the same period. The researchers found abnormally high levels of 12 proteins out of the 91 studied among those infected by SARS-CoV-2, and that the degree of abnormality tracked with the severity of symptoms.

"If we can identify people who are likely to develop long COVID, this opens the door to trialling treatments such as antivirals at this earlier, initial infection stage, to see if it can reduce the risk of later long COVID," said senior author Dr Wendy Heywood.



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