Belgian scientists make major breakthrough on long Covid
Two Belgian doctors have detected the long-term presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in people suffering from long Covid, in a new study that should make it easier to treat the condition.
Charleroi-based general practitioner Marc Jamoulle and Johan Van Weyenbergh, an immunologist at KU Leuven's Rega Institute, presented their research at the Demystifying Long Covid International Conference, held in Madrid from 7 to 9 December.
"I became interested in long Covid because I could not understand it," said Jamoulle. "For two years, I've been following a cohort of patients with consistent symptoms that do not correspond to any known disease."
"Often doctors misdiagnose them with burnout"
After conducting a qualitative study, Jamoulle enlisted the help of Van Weyenbergh. Together, they carried out extensive blood tests on 110 suspected long Covid patients and established a correlation between the symptoms observed and the data collected.
The blood tests revealed encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain caused by poor cerebral arterial blood circulation. "The brain controls the entire body, which is why people experience a range of disorders such as cognitive or respiratory problems," said Jamoulle. "Often doctors misdiagnose them with burnout."
"If it had been 70 per cent men, the research would certainly have been faster"
Of the 110 participants in the study, 30 per cent now consider long Covid a distant memory, 30 per cent report slight improvement and the remaining 40 per cent remain incapacitated.
About 70 per cent of those affected are women, with an average age of 40. "If it had been 70 per cent men, the research would certainly have been faster," said Jamoulle, noting that gender bias persists in the medical field.
Although the study is far from complete, it makes it possible to identify long Covid victims through blood tests. It could also enable doctors to provide more appropriate treatment.
Rebecca Schleider, 41, has been living with long Covid since she contracted the virus in 2020 © PHOTO SIPA USA