COVID-19 offers an endless array of research options as researchers scramble to understand everything from its adaptation in humans to the leftover effects of the disease in what we call “long-haulers”. This latter topic of “long-haulers” forced upon us by this virus takes center stage in the article of interests as King’s College London researchers believe they can explain why some patients suffer from “long COVID”.
Researchers across the globe are asking why some individuals experience short and mild symptoms while others face death or long-term disabling symptoms. In functional medicine, we are aware of long-term viral syndromes, so this is not surprising. This concept is less accepted in the conventional medical world, but science and the public cannot deny the fact with COVID-19.
These researchers looked at autopsies of 41 patients after COVID-19 in an Italian hospital searching for clues why some might have enduring symptoms. They sampled lung, liver, heart, and kidney tissue. The primary site of damage was not surprisingly the lungs. In the lungs, they found disruption of structure and scarring fibrosis as one might expect in any pneumonia.
In these COVID-19 patients, two other characteristics stood out as unique. First, there was extensive clotting in a majority of patient’s lung tissue. Second, large, fused cells called syncitia were common where the viral spike protein had caused lung cells to fuse together. Beyond these two structural features, they also found persistence of viral genes in the lung cells and the cells lining blood vessels.
While the lungs showed such extensive changes, no other examined organs revealed possible long-term changes.
As research into “long COVID” continues, we will need to see studies of actual “long COVID” patients rather than autopsies of its victims, but this does provide clues for that future research. The “long haulers” we watch have ongoing fatigue and shortness of breath which such lung damage could explain. The old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, applies here in that optimizing your immune system for early defeat of COVID-19 is better than trying to clean up the mess after the virus attacks. In functional medicine, we aim to optimize patient health so they can resist rather than succumb to whatever stress or disease attempts to overtake their lives.
Rossana Bussani, Edoardo Schneider, Lorena Zentilin, Chiara Collesi, Hashim Ali, Luca Braga, Maria Concetta Volpe, Andrea Colliva, Fabrizio Zanconati, Giorgio Berlot, Furio Silvestri, Serena Zacchigna, Mauro Giacca. Persistence of viral RNA, pneumocyte syncytia and thrombosis are hallmarks of advanced COVID-19 pathology. EBioMedicine, 2020; 103104 DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.103104
Thanks to Science Daily:
King’s College London. “COVID-19 lung damage caused by persistence of ‘abnormal cells’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201104001307.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.