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Severe and long Covid risk could be established ‘very early on’

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New research has suggested there are specific molecular responses found in some COVID-19 patients which could be used to determine their likelihood of suffering from severe or long Covid symptoms, very early on following infection.

Researchers, supported by NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, had set out to increase our understanding of the relationship between the immune response and COVID-19 symptoms by recruiting individuals who tested positive for the virus into a cohort of the NIHR BioResource.

Studying 207 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 over a three-month period, taking blood samples and measuring their symptoms, then comparing to samples taken from 45 healthy people, the researchers were able to uncover a number of interesting new findings.

Their research showed that people with either an asymptomatic or mild case of COVID-19 mounted a robust immune response to the virus soon after getting infected. These individuals produced a greater number of T cells, B cells and antibodies than patients with more severe COVID-19 infections and within the first week of infection - after which these numbers rapidly returned to normal.

The study also showed there was no evidence in these patients of widespread inflammation which can lead to damage in multiple organs.

In contrast, people with severe COVID-19 who required hospitalisation showed an impaired immune response, which led to a delayed and weakened attempt to fight the virus and widespread inflammation from the time of symptom onset. In patients requiring admission to hospital, the early immune response was delayed, and profound abnormalities were present in a number of immune cells.

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Source: NHE, 22 January 2021

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