Long COVID: How COVID-19 Can Affect the Immune System Long Term

Hey there! Here’s a fascinating update from the world of science. You know how our immune system has these frontline warriors that fight off all kinds of germs, right? Well, it turns out they remember their battles, especially the one with COVID-19!

So, to break it down: We’ve got two main types of fighters in our immune system. The innate immune cells are like our general security, fighting off all sorts of bad guys from bacteria to viruses. On the other hand, B cells and T cells are like elite special forces, remembering and taking down specific intruders.

Steven Josefowicz and his team from Weill Cornell Medical College dove deep into this and made a surprising discovery. These general security cells, the innate immune ones, seem to have a “memory” of their showdown with COVID-19. And it’s not just a fleeting memory – it sticks around for over a year after someone recovers from a severe case.

Instead of the old-school, kinda painful method of extracting bone marrow to study these cells, the team got smart. They simply took blood samples from ICU patients who had a rough time with COVID-19. What they found was pretty wild. These immune cells had kind of “reprogrammed” themselves post-battle, pumping out more inflammatory stuff than usual. And here’s the kicker: these amped-up cells can wander off to places like our lungs, brain, and heart – all spots that tend to suffer in Long COVID cases.

Read More: New COVID Variant BA.2.86: What We Know So Far

Why are these cells acting all beefed up? 

Josefowicz thinks our bodies might be interpreting a severe bout of COVID-19 as a long-term invasion. Hence, our immune system gears up to throw everything it’s got at the virus. But here’s the million-dollar question: Are these changes the culprits behind Long COVID? The jury’s still out on that.

Now, there’s a silver lining to this whole pandemic chaos. Because so many folks got hit with COVID-19 before we had vaccines, researchers got a clear snapshot of these immune changes. And guess what? They noticed that folks who got certain anti-inflammatory drugs seemed to have fewer of these souped-up immune cells. This might be a game-changer in understanding Long COVID and how to treat it, but of course, more digging is needed.

Josefowicz sums it up nicely. By understanding how flexible these cells are, we might find a way to guide them back to their usual calm selves after a viral showdown. Fingers crossed! 

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