Scientists say they have detected irregularities in the blood of long Covid patients that could one day pave the way for a test for the condition.
Imperial College London researchers found a pattern of rogue antibodies in the blood of a small number of people with long Covid.
They hope it could lead to a simple blood test within six to 18 months.
Dr Elaine Maxwell, from the National Institute of Health Research, said the early findings were “exciting”.
She said there could be “a number of different things happening after a Covid-19 infection” and an autoimmune response “has been one of the suspected mechanisms”.
But she warned that long Covid was a “complex condition”, saying it was important to continue to research the other causal factors so all different types of post-Covid syndrome could be diagnosed and treated.
Long Covid is not yet fully understood and can cover a range of symptoms lasting long after initial infection including fatigue, breathlessness, headaches and muscle pain.
There are currently no tests to diagnose long Covid.
Prof Danny Altmann, who is leading the research team at Imperial, said he believes the work will lead to a test which could be done in a doctor’s surgery.
But he said he was concerned the UK government’s plans to “live with” Covid-19 could be stoking the next wave of cases of the condition.
The government plans to end most coronavirus restrictions in England in a week’s time, on 19 July.
But amid rising cases Prof Altmann warned that it is not yet known if vaccinations will protect people from long-term symptoms.”If we’re heading into a phase of 100,000 cases per day, and, we’re saying that 10-20% of all infections can result in long Covid, I can see no certainty that we’re not brewing those long Covid cases despite having a vaccinated population,” he said. (BBC)