UAMS Research Team Finds Potential Cause of COVID-19 ‘Long-haulers’ by David Robinson
Sept. 9, 2021 | LITTLE ROCK — A UAMS research team has identified a potential cause of long-lasting symptoms experienced by COVID-19 patients, often referred to as long-haulers. The findings were published in the journal, The Public Library of Science ONE (PLOS ONE).
At the heart of the team’s findings is an antibody that shows up weeks after an initial infection and attacks and disrupts a key regulator of the immune system, said lead researcher John Arthur, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Nephrology in the UAMS College of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine.
As many as 30% of COVID-19 patients experience lingering fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath. The cause of long COVID-19 has eluded scientists, but the UAMS team’s discovery sheds important new light on the molecular-level mechanisms behind it.
“Everything that we’ve found is consistent with this antibody as the instigator of long COVID, so it’s an exciting development that merits further study,” Arthur said.
The antibody creates problems for the immune system by attacking the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The ACE2 enzyme helps regulate the body’s response to the virus by metabolizing a peptide that activates the immune system. The attacking antibody interferes with ACE2’s work, which makes the antibody a prime suspect for the long-lasting illness.
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