Research from the University of Manchester has shown for the first time that malfunctioning behaviour of a type of immune cell is linked to specific symptoms of long- COVID, the university writes in a press release.
Researchers from The University of Manchester, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), Northern Care Alliance Foundation Trust (NCA) and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) have found abnormal behaviour in monocytes. This could be used as drug targets for treating long-COVID symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath.
‘Important first step’
Dr Elizabeth Mann (University of Manchester) said that their work finding a link between monocyte function and specific long COVID-19 symptoms may provide an important first step on the road to possible treatments.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, included 71 hospitalised patients with acute COVID-19 and 142 follow up patients attending outpatient clinics months after hospital discharge from COVID-19. Using blood samples, they examined key monocyte migratory signatures in acute disease that persisted into convalescence up to nine months following hospital discharge. The researchers were able to distinguish long COVID patients with shortness of breath and unresolved lung injury from those with ongoing fatigue, and from asymptomatic patients.
Dr Mann explained that long COVID can lead to debilitating symptoms such as extreme fatigue, myalgia, brain fog, depression, fibrotic lung disease and pulmonary vascular disease which can last for many months or even years following infection. With treatment options for long COVID currently limited, their research may provide an important first step on the road to possible treatments.
What is the inflammasome?
The inflammasome is a multiprotein complex which is responsible for regulating inflammation in the body. When triggered by an infection or injury it produces proinflammatory cytokines which can activate the immune system. Targeting the inflammasome is a promising strategy for novel therapies for severe COVID-19, but caution is warranted due to its opposing protective and aggravating functions in SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Differences between severe COVID-19 and long COVID
Recently another study was conducted on differences in monocyte subsets between severe COVID-19 and long COVID. The results suggest that interruption of the CX3CR1/fractalkine pathway could be a potential therapeutic target to reduce survival of S1-containing non-classical monocytes and associated morbidity in long COVID patients.
Manchester researchers have linked monocytes to long covid symptoms and are now looking into developing therapies based on this research. Their findings have uncovered new pathways that could be targeted for novel therapeutic opportunities in long COVID patients. This work provides an important first step towards finding treatments for those suffering from long covid.