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Signs of autoimmune disease, difficulty exercising noted 1 year after COVID

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Two studies published today in the European Respiratory Journal describe long-COVID findings, one revealing signs of autoimmune disease in 41% of blood samples taken 1 year after recovery, and the other showing that 23% of patients still had exercise intolerance a year after hospital release.41% had signs of autoimmune disease at 1 yearIn the first study, a team led by McMaster University researchers in Canada obtained blood samples from 106 people who tested positive for COVID-19 from August 2020 to September 2021.

They also asked participants about long-COVID symptoms 3, 6, and 12 months after recovery.Twenty-two healthy volunteers and 34 people who had recovered from a non-COVID respiratory infection served as comparison groups.At 3 and 6 months, nearly 80% of the COVID-19 survivors had at least two antibodies that target healthy cells and tissues and contribute to autoimmune diseases, falling to 41% after 1 year.

In comparison, most healthy volunteers had no evidence of these antibodies, while those who had recovered from a non-COVID illness had relatively low levels.From 21% to 30% of COVID-19 patients—most who still had shortness of breath and fatigue—had specific antibodies (called anti-U1-snRNP and anti-SS-B/La autoantibodies) and proteins that cause inflammation (TNFα cytokines) at 1 year.Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy parts of the body instead of defending it against disease.

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