As we have seen many times, lowering the alert around the coronavirus is always very risky, and also because the number of those who continue to suffer from quality-of-life-threatening disorders after illness is increasing. They are the victims of COVID-19, a complex syndrome that is still unknown and the subject of numerous studies trying to identify its causes and find a cure. Journalist and writer Agnes Codignola dedicated her latest book to the latest research findings, and to the history of a disease that has long been denied by the scientific community: Il Lungo Covid (Utet).
1. Why is Long Covid associated with other mysterious diseases? Very similar syndromes have also been described in past centuries, as a legacy left by great epidemics and epidemics. The similarities lie first and foremost in the type and frequency of symptoms and in their course over time. Disorders such as extreme tiredness and difficulty concentrating (or brain fog), widespread pain, difficulty breathing, tachycardia or depression are actually found in various conditions after viral infection and also in many autoimmune diseases. With the latter, the long virus has different points of contact: for example, it affects women more often than men, especially between 40 and 55 years old. It also has a fluctuating tendency, that is, it alternates moments of relative calm with other moments when symptoms become severe.
2. Of the past syndromes, is it caused by the Corona virus? Most likely yes. According to recent studies, the epidemic called La Rosa, which plagued Europe and North America between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was identified by one of the four coronaviruses that cause colds today: the virus called OC43. This pandemic left behind a post-viral syndrome that lasted for years and had many features in common with the long-running coronavirus such as, for example, olfactory abnormalities, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
3. Why is it difficult to recognize these diseases? Knowledge is increasing. For example, specific antibodies are detected that are formed early in the disease and that can be associated with the subsequent development of the long virus. However, there is still no procedure that allows an accurate diagnosis to be made, because there are no tests that give an unambiguous answer. The whole thing becomes complicated by the fact that the disease manifests itself in a completely different way and everyone has it to her Constellation of Troubles. As for the reasons, there are currently several hypotheses. In general, it is believed to be an autoimmune reaction (in which the antibodies made by the patient are directed against his own tissues), likely caused by viral particles that remain in the body even when the smear is now negative. Alternatively, the immune disorder could be caused by encountering an entirely new virus.
4. How is the diagnosis made? What treatments are there today? Diagnosis can only be made through a detailed reconstruction of the patient’s history, even before SARS-CoV2 infection. In fact, there are some conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or obesity) that seem to predispose to prolonged infection with the virus. Precisely because of the heterogeneity of symptoms, there is no single action: the clinician must evaluate the prevalent disorders and direct toward the most appropriate tests. In addition, he should listen carefully to what the patient is saying, for example when he talks about depression or brain fog. The same is true for treatments: there is not just one treatment, but we try to help the patient with medication, rehabilitation (respiratory, physical, olfactory), and, when necessary, with psychotherapy and relaxation techniques. Several studies are underway to find more effective and specific treatments.