'The long tail of Covid-19' - The detection of a prolonged inflammatory response after a SARS-CoV-2 infection in asymptomatic and mildly affected patients.

F1000Research. 2020;9:1349
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Plain language summary

‘Long COVID’ or the persistence of symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 infection, such as fatigue, is becoming increasingly common. As the emergence of the virus is still relatively recent in research terms, little is known about the long-term impact of the viruses infection. This study sought to generate further insights into the management and diagnostic of long COVID, by assessing a range of inflammatory markers from blood serum samples. Examined were 10 samples of health care workers with previous asymptomatic or moderate SARS-CoV-2 infections, compared to 10 samples of SARS-CoV-2 naive health care workers. The serum was analyzed by mass spectrometry using a customized panel of the 96 immune response associated proteins. Despite being mild to moderate cases, the results showed that even 40-60 days after infection, significant disturbance in the immune systems inflammatory response could be observed. Particularly markers that reflect anti-inflammatory pathways and mitochondrial stress. The study highlighted six of the most noteworthy proteins and included a brief description of their role. The authors suggest that analysing proteins by using targeted proteomic technology, could serve as a cost-effective strategy to further investigate the changes in inflammatory responses post SARS-CoV-2 infection. Which could help to aid the identification of potential treatment targets in the future. Relevant findings from this small study for clinical practice are that even mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection can alter the inflammatory responses for months afterwards.


'Long Covid', or medical complications associated with post SARS-CoV-2 infection, is a significant post-viral complication that is being more and more commonly reported in patients. Therefore, there is an increasing need to understand the disease mechanisms, identify drug targets and inflammatory processes associated with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. To address this need, we created a targeted mass spectrometry based multiplexed panel of 96 immune response associated proteins. We applied the multiplex assay to a cohort of serum samples from asymptomatic and moderately affected patients. All patients had tested positive for a SARS-CoV-2 infection by PCR and were determined to be subsequently positive for antibodies. Even 40-60 days post-viral infection, we observed a significant remaining inflammatory response in all patients. Proteins that were still affected were associated with the anti-inflammatory response and mitochondrial stress. This indicates that biochemical and inflammatory pathways within the body can remain perturbed long after SARS-CoV-2 infections have subsided even in asymptomatic and moderately affected patients.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Inflammatory response
Environmental Inputs : Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Not applicable
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable