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expert reaction to study looking at T cell activation and viral RNA persistence in long Covid

A study published in Science Translational Medicine looks at T cell activation and viral RNA persistence in long Covid. 


Prof Danny Altmann, Professor of Immunology, Imperial College London, said:

“This is a small but important Long Covid study that should be seen as a significant step in advancing our understanding of this disease process and thus shifting nearer to treatments that could offer hope to the tens of millions of patients.  There has been a large amount of inferential data supporting a view that a key factor underpinning Long Covid may be that some people do not properly clear the virus and harbour reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2 in their tissues.  This would be expected to drive the inflammatory and immune processes causing Long Covid symptoms.  It’s been hard to prove this case – evidence has come from a small number of studies in which Long Covid symptoms were correlated with presence of virus analysed from gut biopsies.  At the centre of this new study is a novel approach whereby PET scanning is done using a novel tracer that allows them to map activated T cells in the body.  They find patterns of long term T cell activation that may help to explain patterns of Long Covid symptoms.  For example, people with respiratory symptoms showed long-term homing of activated T cells to the lung.  In a small number of people they then go on to check biopsies and find evidence for presence of a long-term virus reservoir.  At a time when there’s desperate need for new clinical trials, studies like this help to point the way.”


‘Tissue-based T cell activation and viral RNA persist for up to 2 years following SARS-CoV-2 infection’ by Michael J. Peluso et al. was published in Science Translational Medicine at 19:00 UK time on Wednesday 3 July 2024.

DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.adk3295



Declared interests

Prof Danny Altmann: “DMA is a Trustee of Long Covid Support, co-author of the Penguin Handbook of Long Covid, Lead Investigator of the NIHR WILCO LONG COVID Study, and has received honoraria for consultancies with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Novavax.”

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