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Complement System Causes Cell Damage in Long Covid

Long Covid patients suffer from chronic symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath. As researchers at the University of Zurich and University Hospital Zurich have discovered, this is to some extent due to a part of our immune system called the complement system. The study identified a pattern in the blood proteins that will improve the diagnosis and perhaps also the targeted treatment of Long Covid.

Long Covid patients suffer from chronic fatigue and cognitive impairment. (Image: iStock/Jay Yuno)

Most people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus recover after the acute illness. However, a significant proportion of infected individuals develop long-lasting symptoms with a wide range of manifestations. The causes and disease mechanisms of Long Covid are still unknown, and there are no diagnostic tests or targeted treatments.

Part of the immune system active for too long

A team of researchers led by Onur Boyman, professor of immunology at the University of Zurich (UZH) and Director of the Department of Immunology at the University Hospital Zurich (USZ), has shown in a study that the complement system plays an important role in Long Covid. It is part of the innate immune system and normally helps to fight infections and eliminate damaged and infected body cells. “In patients with Long Covid, the complement system no longer returns to its basal state, but remains activated and, thus, also damages healthy body cells,” says Boyman.

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