Lung function tests show that Lung Covid patients almost always have normal lung function. CT scans, MRI scans of the heart and blood tests also show nothing special in the vast majority of patients, Hellemons says in the podcast. This while tens of thousands of people can have complaints for months or even years after a corona infection.
Nevertheless, things have been demonstrated in scientific journals, says the pulmonologist. “In recent months, publications have been published in reputable journals at a rapid pace. I’m really talking about Nature, Science and Cell,” says Hellemons.
Broadly speaking, it concerns three mechanisms that probably play a role: “The first is: extensive immune dysregulation. The immune system is completely in the alert position after Covid,” says the healthcare provider, who is also involved in a larger study into the role of the immune system in lung covid patients.
The second mechanism is called ‘viral persistence’. “There is a lot to be done about that. The bottom line is that there may still be a live virus in the body.” Scientists do not yet know exactly where in the body this is.
The third mechanism has to do with the blood: according to some studies there is an increased tendency to clot, says Hellemons. “For example, very small micro-clots are found in the bloodstream in people with persistent complaints. We do not find them with the routine tests as we do in the hospital, because it is not a thrombosis as we know it,” says the scientist. These platelets could play a role in the complaints.
‘Major social problem’
Merel Hellemons became involved in the first corona wave with the corona patients who ended up in hospital. Since then, she has been dealing with the long-term complaints that these patients have to contend with. In her own words, the disease has ‘grabbed her’. “I think it’s such a special syndrome. It is especially disabling for the most serious group. I think this is such a big social problem that I want to make a case for this group.”
Hellemons is a lung specialist, but that does not mean that Lung Covid has something to do with the lungs per se. The word ‘long’ in the name ‘Long Covid’ is a translation of the English word ‘long-term’.
The first two episodes of the podcast can be heard in all podcast apps. They can also be heard below.