A blood test taken at the time of Covid-19 infection could predict who is most likely to develop long Covid, suggests a new small-scale study led by UCL researchers.
The study, published in Lancet eBioMedicine, analysed proteins in the blood of healthcare workers infected with SARS-CoV-2, comparing them to samples from healthcare workers who had not been infected.
Usually protein levels in the body are stable, but the researchers found a dramatic difference in levels of some of the proteins up to six weeks following infection, suggesting disruption to a number of important biological processes.
Using an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm, they identified a “signature” in the abundance of different proteins that successfully predicted whether or not the person would go on to report persistent symptoms a year after infection.
The researchers say that, if these findings are repeated in a larger, independent group of patients, a test could potentially be offered alongside a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that could predict people’s likelihood of developing long Covid.
Lead author Dr Gaby Captur (MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL) said: “Our study shows that even mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 disrupts the profile of proteins in our blood plasma. This means that even mild Covid-19 affects normal biological processes in a dramatic way, up to at least six weeks after infection.
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