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Neurology Learning NetworkIs the Post-Viral Syndrome Affecting Millions of Americans Actually Long COVID?

Study Reveals Immune Response to SARS-CoV-2 in Patients with Post-Viral Syndrome Resembling Long COVID

A recent study published in Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation has found that nearly 40% of individuals with a post-viral syndrome similar to long COVID, but without a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 test result, showed an immune response to the virus. This raises questions about the exclusion of these patients from specialized long COVID clinics and research studies.

HCN Medical Memo
This study underscores the need to reconsider the criteria for long COVID clinics and research studies. Patients with post-viral syndrome resembling long COVID, but without a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 test, may still have had exposure to the virus and should not be excluded from specialized care or research. This could have implications for millions of Americans who were unable to get tested early in the pandemic but are experiencing long-term symptoms.

Key Points:
  • Researchers tested 29 people with post-viral syndrome for antibodies to nucleocapsid protein and spike protein, markers of a previous COVID-19 infection.
  • 41% of participants with post-viral syndrome had immune responses consistent with prior exposure to COVID-19.
  • These patients exhibited symptoms and cognitive test results similar to those with confirmed long COVID.

“Our data suggest that millions of Americans with post-viral syndrome may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 at the beginning of the pandemic, and they deserve the same access to care and inclusion in research studies as people with a confirmed COVID diagnosis.”
– Igor J. Koralnik, MD, Study Author, Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive COVID-19 Center, Chicago, Illinois

Additional Points

  • Early in the pandemic, limited access to COVID-19 testing left many Americans undiagnosed despite exposure to the virus.
  • The study had a small sample size, which is a limitation.
  • Researchers noted that more participants might have shown immune responses if blood samples were collected closer to the onset of symptoms.

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