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Root cause of long COVID found, study says

National Jewish Health says it has to do with the energy system and mitochondria

SAN ANTONIO — A big first step in the fight against long COVID. For many the disease only lasts a few days, but for others the symptoms last for months or even more than a year.

On the surface there seems to be no commonality between those who have long COVID. But finally, researchers at National Jewish Health say they've found what they believe to be the root cause of what for many seems to be a never-ending illness. 

Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, the Clinical Chief of Rehabilitation Medicine forUniversiity Health, and the Chair of Rehabilitation Medicine at UT Health San Antonio told us, "They did cardiopulmonary exercise testing and they wanted to look at certain parts of the blood of patients afterwards when they did this exercise testing to see what kind of impact did it have on the energy system." 

They found that all of the subjects with long COVID had impaired mitochondrial function which zaps your energy system. Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez said, "If your energy system is impacted, it's going to cause a lot of difficulties. You're not going to be able to function. You're going to be fatigued, you're going to have brain fog. You're not going to be able to do what you're used to doing." 

In a recent report by the Government Accountability Office it said an estimated 7.7 to 23 million people in the U.S. developed long COVID. And a study by Oxford University in the U.K. found one-third of people who got COVID-19 had at least one symptom three to six months after they first got sick. Other studies found that being vaccinated reduced the risk of developing these long lasting symptoms.

For those still suffering from long COVID symptoms, the main message is don't give up. Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez told us, "We're learning more and more about long Covid right now. At this point you are the specialist of your own body and you continue to try to find help in other services to be able to have the best outcome at the end.  

Dr. Verdusco Gutierrez says the next step is to take this research and move it forward to start looking for treatments to cure the body of long COVID symptoms.

    

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