Role of the MicroRNAs in the Pathogenic Mechanism of Painful Symptoms in Long COVID: Systematic Review (Reyes-Long et al, 2023)


The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 has caused more than 6.7 million tragic deaths, plus, a large percentage of people who survived it present a myriad of chronic symptoms that last for at least 6 months; this has been named as long COVID. Some of the most prevalent are painful symptoms like headache, joint pain, migraine, neuropathic-like pain, fatigue and myalgia. MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that regulate genes, and their involvement in several pathologies has been extensively shown. A deregulation of miRNAs has been observed in patients with COVID-19. The objective of the present systematic review was to show the prevalence of chronic pain-like symptoms of patients with long COVID and based on the expression of miRNAs in patients with COVID-19, and to present a proposal on how they may be involved in the pathogenic mechanisms of chronic pain-like symptoms. A systematic review was carried out in online databases for original articles published between March 2020 to April 2022; the systematic review followed the PRISMA guidelines, and it was registered in PROSPERO with registration number CRD42022318992. A total of 22 articles were included for the evaluation of miRNAs and 20 regarding long COVID; the overall prevalence of pain-like symptoms was around 10 to 87%, plus, the miRNAs that were commonly up and downregulated were miR-21-5p, miR-29a,b,c-3p miR-92a,b-3p, miR-92b-5p, miR-126-3p, miR-150-5p, miR-155-5p, miR-200a, c-3p, miR-320a,b,c,d,e-3p, and miR-451a. The molecular pathways that we hypothesized to be modulated by these miRNAs are the IL-6/STAT3 proinflammatory axis and the compromise of the blood–nerve barrier; these two mechanisms could be associated with the prevalence of fatigue and chronic pain in the long COVID population, plus they could be novel pharmacological targets in order to reduce and prevent these symptoms.