COVID-19 virus
Visualization of the COVID-19 virus.


An increasing number of COVID-19 survivors are experiencing symptoms weeks or months after the infection has cleared in what is known informally as “long COVID.”

The illness isn’t gone after those 14 or so days of battling the active infection. Several
studies have shown the variety of symptoms — breathing difficulties, fatigue and pain, for
example — that long-haulers can experience, with doctors highlighting the severity of this

Al Brandenburg Maricopa
Al Brandenburg

Now, a new series of studies might offer an explanation for long COVID symptoms. When the body defends itself against a foreign element like the novel coronavirus it mounts an immune response to get rid of the pathogen, according to researchers. Specific antibodies are created to neutralize the virus, as white blood cells adapt to recognize the pathogen and fight it again upon reinfection.

But researchers note many studies are focusing on a type of antibody that does not block the virus. These autoantibodies, part of the immune response to the virus, can attack your own body and can persist for several months after the infection. That could explain why COVID-19 symptoms can last so long.

The conclusion comes from a limited-scope study that needs more validation. Doctors at Boston Medical Center observed nine COVID-19 patients, five of them showing autoantibodies for at least seven months after infection. An October study also showed
autoantibodies present in some patients before they were infected, then attacking their
own immune response to the coronavirus. A November study showed half of the subjects
had autoantibodies that could cause clots and blockages in blood vessels and another study in December showed COVID-19 autoantibodies targeting the immune system, brain cells,
connective tissue and clotting factors.

Some of these antibodies might disappear in time, Harvard University immunologists
recently said. The symptoms might go away, too. As more studies are completed there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for long haulers.

Hopefully, all have been vaccinated against the disease. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy the summer.

Al Brandenburg is a member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition.


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa magazine.