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Potential Link Between Long COVID and Key Protein Found by British Researchers

British researchers have discovered that individuals suffering from long COVID have high levels of a protein called gamma interferon in their bodies.
This finding could pave the way for the development of new tests and treatments for the condition.

As the world takes a slight breath of relief COVID-19 hasn't disappeared but it no longer burdens daily life questions linger about potential resurgence and the after-effects of the illness.

Shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, it became apparent that the disease could cause lingering discomforts well after the initial infection had subsided. Scientists have been zealously searching for the cause of the development of long COVID, and it seems they may have found an intriguing lead.

Published in the journal _Science Advances_, researchers from the University of Cambridge have identified a protein correlated with the symptoms of long COVID.

The team examined 55 individuals experiencing severe symptoms of long COVID at least five months post-infection. They collected blood samples from these individuals to measure cytokine levels. Cytokines are small proteins that play roles in the proper functioning of the immune system and blood cells.

The researchers found that during infection, the coronavirus triggered the production of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) in the body. Under normal circumstances, this protein induces inflammation, signaling that the immune system is combating an infection. Typically, the production of IFN-γ should cease once the infection has been eliminated.

However, in those suffering from long COVID, the cytokine levels remained high, in some cases up to 31 months following infection. Since IFN-γ can induce inflammation, it could be the cause of some of the most common symptoms of enduring COVID.

According to Benjamin Krishna, one of the study's authors, IFN-γ proves useful in combatting infections like hepatitis C, but it can also cause fatigue, fever, headaches, muscle pain, and depression symptoms all too familiar to those suffering from long COVID.

Another significant finding of the study is that 60 percent of patients who reported a cessation of long COVID symptoms experienced a reduction in IFN-γ levels. This clue is vital yet it remains unclear exactly why the symptoms disappeared. It is also not known whether IFN-γ is a trigger or a marker of the symptoms. Therefore, further study into the precise effects and role of gamma interferon is warranted in the future.
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