Hamilton, ON (Sept. 21, 2022) – A McMaster University-led study has found that most people infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus recover within 12 months, irrespective of the severity.
However, although 75 per cent had recovered at the 12-month mark after becoming ill with the virus, 25 per cent of patients still had at least one of the three most common symptoms, including coughing, fatigue and breathlessness. Researchers also found that patients with persistent symptoms also had antibodies associated with autoimmune illnesses, as well as raised levels of cytokines, which cause inflammation.
Researchers gleaned the results by surveying 106 people recovering from COVID-19 infections at three, six and 12 months after contracting the disease. All patients surveyed were otherwise healthy and had no pre-existing autoimmune conditions or any other underlying diseases pre-pandemic.
“Generally, one should not worry if they are feeling unwell right after their infection, as the chances of recovering within 12 months is very high, and just because you have typical long COVID symptoms at three months does not mean they will stay forever,” said senior author Manali Mukherjee, an assistant professor of the Department of Medicine.
“However, the study highlights that at 12 months, if you still feel unwell and the symptoms are persisting or worsening, you should definitely seek medical attention.”
Mukherjee said patients with persistent long COVID symptoms should see a rheumatologist, as they specialize in autoimmune disorders and can better assess development of rheumatological complications and the need for an early intervention.
She said that most patients with long COVID are currently assessed by respirologists or infectious disease specialists, who do not specialize in autoimmunity.
Mukherjee said that of the patients who recovered, a reduction in autoantibodies and cytokines was matched by their symptoms improving. Those who had elevated antibody and cytokine levels after one year were those whose symptoms persisted.
“Sometimes, while the body is fighting the virus, the immune system gets so amped up that, in addition to making antibodies that kill the virus, it can produce those that attack the host,” said Mukherjee.
“However, the general tendency of the body after it fights a severe virus like SARS-COV2, is to recover, and its often paced out varying from individual to individual.”
Mukherjee is leading the upcoming COVID-19 Immunity Task Force-funded ‘Autoimmunity in Post-Acute COVID Syndrome’ study and is Hamilton site lead for the Canadian Respiratory Research Network-Long COVID study, both of which are currently recruiting for participants.
Mukherjee led her study in collaboration with researchers from the University of British Columbia.
Parts of the study were funded by grants from Cyclomedica (Canada), Weston Foundation, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, UBC Strategic Initiative Fund and COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.
A photo of Manali Mukherjee may be found at https://bit.ly/3drWUEH
The paper will be post-embargo available at https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.00970-2022
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Faculty of Health Sciences
European Respiratory Journal
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Circulating Antinuclear Autoantibodies in COVID-19 Survivors Predict Long-COVID Symptoms
Article Publication Date
MM (Manali Mukherjee) is supported by early investigator award from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Canadian Asthma Allergy and Immunology Foundation (CAAIF). MM reports grants from CIHR, grants from Methapharm Specialty Pharmaceuticals, personal fees from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, consultant fees from Novartis, outside the submitted work. SS reports grants from Cyclomedica, personal fees from Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, honorarium for lectures from AZ, honorarium for lectures from Novartis, and honorarium for lectures from Polarean, outside the submitted work. SW reports grants and consulting fees from Alk Abello, grants from Canadian Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Foundation, Aimmune, grants and consulting fees from CSL Behring, grants from Takeda, personal and consulting fees from AZ, personal and consulting fees from GSK, consulting fees from Novartis, consulting and personal fees from Sanofi, consulting and personal fees from Medexus, consulting and personal fees from Miravo Health, consulting fees from AbbVie, consulting and personal fees from Bausch Lomb, outside of the submitted work. SW reports being president for CAAIF, board of directors for Asthma Canada, and medical advisor for Food Allergy Canada. PN reports grants and personal fees from AZ, grants and personal fees from Teva, grants and personal fees from Sanofi, personal fees from GSK, personal fees from Equillium, personal fees from Arrowhead pharma, grants from Foresee, grants from Cyclomedica, outside the submitted work. DB reports grants from COVID- 19 Immunity Task Force / Public Health Agency of Canada, grants from National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), grants from Canadian Institutes of Health Research, personal fees from AZ Mexico, personal fees for invited presentations from academic institutions, outside the submitted work. DB reports being on the board of directors for Lung Health Foundation and being an expert witness testimony for the Government of Canada. KS, RJ, AC, Manan Mukherjee, CV, KM, KZ, ZP, BS, AY, KL, BC, KR, CH, MK, ADG, JS, QL, CR, TH, NB, IN, CC have nothing to report. European Respiratory Journal Page 48 of 69